Column: A closing of minds

Recently, I came across an article that made me think about how things on the University of Rhode Island campus really are. Heather Mac Donald, a commentator and journalist described as a secular conservative, recounts her experience visiting two Californian colleges to give a speech on her recent controversial book, “The War on Cops.” Both speeches were met with protests, the most serious of which came from Claremont McKenna College. Almost 300 students actively protested in front of the hall where Mac Donald was to present, refusing students and others entrance into the speech and forcing Mac Donald to live stream the event.

While it was clearly students who were conducting these “silencing tactics,” as she said, outside her speech, Mac Donald does not lay the blame entirely on them. In her article, Mac Donald calls out the faculty who, though many are protected by tenure, were for the most part silent.

While getting our education, students often look towards their professors as role models for their future. But Mac Donald is of the opinion that they are not doing their job justice. They are safe inside the protection that their tenure gives them: allowing them to speak out about their opinions without repercussions. But instead of speaking out in a case where freedom of speech was oppressed, they did nothing. Instead of teaching the students the value of their voice and of their opinions, by doing nothing they are showing their students that only one opinion matters.

Coming to college, we are taught that we should explore new things around us, be it a different club, a strange class or an entirely different way of thinking. Unfortunately, our professors, the role models to our collegiate community, don’t always follow suit. A prestigious URI professor spoke up during a public forum, saying that once she heard of a colleague’s political affiliation and voting tendency, she could no longer talk to him. All around her students and other faculty nodded their heads and said that they too couldn’t talk to people who had differing opinions.

I find it incredibly disheartening that a professor, who should be teaching their students to broaden their ideas and opinions, found it difficult to do so herself. Though this is not nearly on the same scope as what happened in California, I still worry about this similar mentality that is being perpetuated on this campus. What will this campus do on the off chance that someone as vocal and controversial as Heather Mac Donald visits? Will we shut our ears or open ourselves up to a potentially uncomfortable, yet important, conversation?

While the University of Rhode Island is made up of a majority of Rhode Island residents, which are for the most part liberal, it is still important to educate yourselves on differing opinions. You may not become an avid Trump supporter afterwards, but a healthy respect towards those with different opinions will only better yourself in the long run. Learning how to work with different-minded people will assist you in the work force, no matter what job you have.

I challenge not only the students and faculty, but the administration and the occasional passerby to take a moment to talk with someone of differing views, to read an article that you do not agree with and to look at things in a different light as you might usually do. It will probably not change your opinions of the matter, but perhaps it might help you to think twice about ignoring your colleague or friend.