Discourse / Editorials / May 1, 2008

Concerning our behavior

Just to clarify, I am not a member of the Knox Republicans nor do I claim to know all that much about politics. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know who John Ashcroft was. I’m writing partly in response to the column “Protest is free speech” printed in TKS on April 24. I’m not writing to debate whether Ashcroft is a “bigoted, racist, hateful” person, because, once again, I don’t know that much about him. I’m just wondering how the protesters “did nothing to prevent Ashcroft from speaking.” Now not all the protesting was bad. The student who stood silently the whole time with his back facing the stage was respectful. Graham Troyer-Joy was respectful and asked an intelligent question. I think it was terrible that Ashcroft snubbed him the way that he did. However, the row of students with the paint on their hands were disruptive. True, they may not have “prevented” him from speaking, but standing up in the middle of his speech and moving around was certainly distracting and did, in fact, make Ashcroft lose his train of thought. How can it be right to ask someone if they have a soul or to swear at our guest speaker? There is a level of human decency and respect that we just left behind on Tuesday.

Ashcroft was not an isolated occurrence; this has been going on all year. We have vandalized banners, called our president and deans fascists, accused our Greek system of some Animal House behavior that I, for one, have never seen happen here, and now we’ve scared the minority into silence. Something is wrong with our school when students are afraid to speak up. When our liberals claim that they are the definition of open-minded, our conservatives don’t believe they will be listened to either way, and our moderates don’t want to be polarized into one group or the other by saying anything, we lose ourselves in babble. Claiming free speech, we all spout our opinions and none of us are listening to each other.

I know many of us are cynical toward “the system” as a way to enact change, but are we really changing anything for the better by putting up anonymous signs without talking to each other? What happened to petitions and letters to the deans or the president about changing things we don’t like? It seems to me like we’re protest-crazy this year and being so radical doesn’t seem to be effecting any positive changes. As a moderate, I tend to shy away from extremes on either end, so all of this action makes me less inclined to join the cause, whatever it may be. I’d like to see us put a little more faith in the democratic process. I think calming down a little, talking to each other, and, yes, going through our bureaucratic channels for change might encourage more people to listen to our requests. I know we’ve spent a lot of time bashing senate this year, but they are students just like us. They are there to represent our interests. We have great deans who hang around their offices a lot; you can even bump into a few of them in the Gizmo. They all have email. On a larger scale, we don’t have to yell at our guest speakers who have been out of office for five years. Issues with the way our national government operates can be taken up with our congressmen.

I’m not asking anyone to change their views or to keep their opinions to themselves. I’m just asking us to stop talking for a second and hear what someone else has to say. A lot of times when my friends and I argue with each other, we wind up yelling at one another for twenty minutes before realizing that we’ve been arguing the same thing. That’s not always the case and sometimes you’ll disagree with someone even after you’ve heard them out, but what can it hurt to spend five minutes understanding a different opinion? We need to evaluate our behavior this year and ask ourselves if this is the direction we want to take Knox.

Erin Souza

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