An innocent man lost his job. Racial tensions are at an all time high. Faculty members refuse to acknowledge students’ First Amendment rights. Campus authorities are policing speech.
This is my reality as a student at the University of Missouri.
I believe in liberty for all people, but the current climate on campus runs counter to that. Some friends tell me they are afraid to voice their opinions lest they come under fire from the administration or peers – or the police.
The University of Missouri police department sent an email urging students to report offensive or hurtful speech – not because it is illegal – but so the Office of Student Conduct could take disciplinary action against these students.
A student journalist at the University of Missouri is looking to press assault charges against an embattled communications professor after a video of their confrontation at a protest went viral.
“Frankly, she assaulted a student, so she should not be allowed to be in a teaching environment,” 22-year-old Mark Schierbecker told the Herald. “We all just want to better know what happened that day.”
In a video shot by Schierbecker earlier this week, assistant communications professor Melissa Click confronts him and calls for some “muscle” to remove him.
We are adults, and we need to be mature enough to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings, rather than demanding that those around us cater to our individual needs. The hypocrisy of advocating for “safe spaces” while creating an incredibly unsafe space for President Chodosh, former Dean Spellman, the student who was “derailing,” and the news media representatives who were verbally abused unfortunately seemed to soar over many of your heads.
Lastly, we are disappointed in students like ourselves, who were scared into silence. We are not racist for having different opinions. We are not immoral because we don’t buy the flawed rhetoric of a spiteful movement. We are not evil because we don’t want this movement to tear across our campuses completely unchecked.
We are no longer afraid to be voices of dissent.
Ordinary Times Editor in Chief Tod Kelly published an article on Friday talking about how he felt that the student protests at Mizzou and Yale were just the pangs of normal academic student life, equating them to a fellow schoolmate, from his own university days, who protested the difficulty of a Math for Poets class. In finding a class too hard, that student apparently broke down and railed against the professor, math, and everything else in the university system that wasn’t the arts or humanities. Starting petitions, she motivated the entire student body to… Well nothing, apparently, as her movement died out within a few days, according to Mr. Kelly.
This is nothing like today’s movement on campus, as exemplified by the protest groups at University of Missouri, Claremont-McKenna College and Yale University.
To compare a student complaining about how hard a math class is to the current campus protest movement that seeks to silence dissenting voices of either other students or visiting speakers is to miss the forest for the trees. And this matters not whether you feel that college is for greater employment opportunities or to expand a broad based educational experience. Nor does it matter what your political affiliation is.
What matters is that the education opportunities that college offers are being cut short by the demands of some students to be not subjected either to disturbing images or to disturbing thoughts. At the same time it allows the most fragile to control the intellectual conversation of the entire campus. Also, it is achieved by allowing some students to bully others into not voicing their opinions.
This creates a massive problem in campus intellectual life in two ways. First, by silencing the voices of others, we are denied whole paths of thought, no matter how painful it may seem at the time. Second and flowing from the first, all of civil rights started with a conversation that those in power did not want to hear. Free speech allowed this conversation to happen.
The idea that the least powerful should have a voice is great and important, but if that leads to silencing other voices it places the idea in opponents’ heads that what are good ideas, equal rights and the pursuit of education for all, really aren’t important to those who are gaining voice, and that only the new voice is important. Further, it hardens the idea that minority voices of all stripes aren’t important and that only the voices of those in power are important. This is not the path to equality.
To achieve equality and true justice we must strive to include all voices, even those that we feel are hurtful and hateful. In the end, they may be our own.
[Image: Modified version of Scream Crosathorian, vie wiki commons.]