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President Thomas Rochon on FLEFF 2014

President Rochon at American Dissonances

Remarks from Dr. Thomas Rochon, President of Ithaca College, to open the 17th Annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

Michael Crow is known as one of the most innovative presidents in higher ed today, driving a transformation of Arizona State University with what he calls the “New American University mission.”    

That mission is “to prove that a university can be simultaneously excellent and broadly inclusive; that it should engage in use-inspired, as well as curiosity-driven, research; and that it can take significant responsibility for the economic, cultural, and environmental health of the communities it serves.”  

If President Crow wants to see that mission in action, he might visit Ithaca during the running of the FLEFF.  Through the events organized under the FLEFF umbrella in the week ahead we will see the three key values that Michael Crow rightly believes must be central to a university in the 21st century:   That we combine excellence with inclusiveness.     That the focus of our creative work be driven by its potential to advance the social good as well as by human curiosity and the thirst for knowledge.     And that we take responsibility for the economic, cultural and environmental health of the communities we are part of.    

We are about to enjoy the 17th annual FLEFF, and the 10th held under IC sponsorship with the generous support of the Park Foundation.  

I want to offer thanks to over 50 IC faculty whose active collaboration brings together the events we are about to enjoy, and very special thanks for the energetic leadership and boundless creativity of Patty Zimmerman and Tom Shevory for their leadership.  

We call it a film festival, I assume because the acronym FLEFF is so pleasing to the ear, but of course we all know FLEFF is more than that.  FLEFF brings together the oldest media of communication and the newest:  from conversations to content generated by social media, with a healthy sprinkling of art, music, readings, workshops, blogs and – oh yes – some two dozen films.    

Dissonance is the theme of this festival but is also a philosophy of human development.  As so beautifully stated on the FLEFF website, “dissonance pairs together the incompatible …  with results that surprise, offend, invite, disturb and excite, spurring action and creativity.  Dissonance sparks and ignites.”    The dissonances to be explored include the impact of global economics on local life, examinations of the fates of individuals within impersonal structures of authority and power, explorations tied to our food, our water, our environment & our planet; and close ups of human triumph and human degradation.     

The greatest dissonance of all might be that we immerse ourselves in these topics here, in a beautiful hall on a beautiful campus located in a beautiful town situated in a beautiful part of a rich and beautiful country.  We don’t have to be here but we are.  

I know the events of this coming week will not leave us unchanged.  And that is the true mission of what President Crow has termed the New American University.