Discourse / Letters / May 1, 2008

Letters to the Editor: Apr. 24 – Apr. 30, 2008

Honor Board constitution amendments

After two years spent on student senate, I must respectfully resign my position. What I once believed to be a body possible of effecting change has devolved into a battle of the B’s. A myriad of issues have been brought up over the course of the year and I have watched them become oversimplified to a two-sided argument; generalized rather than open-mindedly explored. Watching the senate interact (or rather refuse to interact) at the last session where both Dean Bailey and President Taylor were present solidified my belief that this year’s body has become less interested in dealing with the true complexities of the institution and more interested in flashy speeches that show themselves to be rebels but hold little substance that resonates as more than idle chatter.

The Honor Board constitution amendments were an issue larger than Styrofoam or Kegs on campus. It was at the core of every battle fought this year and if there was any time to put away feelings of obligation to either team that has developed this year, that was it. It wasn’t about being pro-administration or anti-administration; it was about advocating a system that gives every student access to information that can ruin or help them. Rather than engaging in this discussion with Dean Bailey and President Taylor, the senate fell silent. One senator boldly stated that the issue should have been dealt with in committee while still others sarcastically thanked me for asking questions of these representatives.

I can no longer be a member of an organization that does not uphold my belief in educated, well thought out debate. While I believe there are representatives who truly care about the state of affairs at Knox, their voices are overshadowed by the contemptuous dialog of a small minority and division that quells any possible change for the better. It is my hope that the student body can elect representatives who uphold the beliefs of the campus rather than carry on an epic battle between two groups.

I am thankful for the time that I have had on student senate and the lessons I have learned. It is my sincerest hope that next year will see a more cohesive body that has the capacity to debate rather than argue, to fight based on well reasoned principles rather than partisan lines.

– Kelsey Kreiling, ‘09

John Ashcroft lecture

Five years ago, I was conservative. I was unconvinced of the arguments for gay marriage, and was fiercely for the war in Afghanistan. When I came to Knox, in the fall of 2003, I found that while many students were liberal, some were conservative, but there were many of us that hadn’t yet decided on our views. We were young, 18, 19-years old, straight out of our parents’ houses, and we were trying different things and being exposed to a wide range of ideas.

Soon enough after arriving in Galesburg, I realized that I couldn’t just take my parents’ beliefs for my own. I had to do my own thinking; your political views are somewhat personal. They are formed by your parents, your friends, your beliefs, and your experiences as I learned at Knox. When I volunteered in New Orleans in the spring of 2006, during my junior year, my experiences there transformed my political ideas, my beliefs and myself. I had been shaken to my core. I realized that I didn’t have any ideas about how this country works. This is when my Knox education “kicked in” and I didn’t just take someone’s word for it; I learned to open my eyes and my ears and think for myself and no one else. So I spent more time reading and researching post-Katrina New Orleans and found myself down here shortly after my graduation. Here is where I’m still educating myself in the way we all love: the Knox way.

What has made me upset is the group of students who limited others’ abilities to take in information and come to their own conclusions. I believe that discourse is absolutely necessary; it’s an intrinsic part of education. But please leave the mudslinging to Hillary and Barack; although I’m sure that Ashcroft deserved to get a little muddy. There are so many ways to challenge ideas and actions, and I stand up and applaud those students who directly asked Mr. Ashcroft questions. Protesting does make progress, but so do new and different ideas. This lack of willingness to listen (on both sides of the aisle) hurts us. If you can’t involve undecided students in the discourse, you might be missing out on new opinions. It’s not about being polite, or being silent while someone refuses to answer a question, it’s about letting everyone have a chance to make their own decision, which I fear did not occur. I think Ashcroft’s actions during the debate spoke for themselves, but to those Knox students who disrupted the speech with intensely personal attacks, I fear that you may have convinced those “undecided” students to keep their political beliefs to themselves and never ask questions or participate in a discourse again.

– Sara Eldridge, ‘07

I am writing to commend Chris Berger, Devin Day, Melinda Jones and Lauren Peretz for setting a standard of common decency for the Knox Community with their condemnatory critiques of the peaceful protesters at John Ashcroft’s lecture. Somehow I managed to miss the memo about them being put in charge of what forms of protest are appropriate for the entire Knox Community, and frankly I would like a copy so that I can thank the supreme being who appointed them. The line they have drawn for themselves, in terms of what is acceptable, rude, appropriate, embarrassing, or shameful is a line that all, at Knox College, must unquestionably stand behind. They are the purveyors of what is acceptable behavior, not only for themselves but for everyone (you know, because of their appointment and all). Those who protested may think they behaved in ways that were appropriate, and did not cross the lines of decency and appropriate behavior that they have developed for themselves, but in fact, they crossed other peoples’ personal lines! Knox is not a place where we should be allowed to think for ourselves, decide what is appropriate for our community and ourselves, and then act on that. Rather, it is a place where we should get in line, file through, and listen to those who undeniably know better than us as to what is right for our bodies.

– Angela Bailey, ‘08

As an alumna of Knox College (Class of 1962), I have continued to marvel at the impressive speakers that the college continues to attract. Indeed, this speaks very highly of our school. However, regarding this year’s commencement speaker, Secretary Madeleine Albright, of whom I was previously an ardent admirer, I would be remiss if I did not express my grave disappointment in her selection as speaker and honorary degree recipient.

Secretary Albright has spoken out vehemently and continuously against genocide and is serving as the co-chair of a high-level Genocide Prevention Task Force jointly sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. Yet, two months before announcing her role in this noble new task force, she sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing Congressional consideration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106) which belatedly seeks to honor the historically validated record of the 1915 Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenian citizens of the Ottoman Empire were killed as part of a state-sponsored genocide. My mother was one of the courageous few survivors, thus, the Secretary’s decision to bow to pressure from the denialist position of the modern Turkish republic — a vital NATO ally — smacks not only of hypocrisy but blatant revisionism, and, for this reason, I cannot support her selection as commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient.

I hope that Knox students, faculty, and administration will echo my concerns and challenge Secretary Albright on her unconscionable double standard of advocating political expediency over historical truth.

– Zabelle Vartanian, ‘62

As anyone following the anonymous poster debate can attest, there has been much discussion on campus recently about what characterizes civil discourse. Some believe that anonymous posters do not; their authors do not sign their names to their opinions, and some argue that this prevents productive debate.

To me, the protesters who stood during John Ashcroft’s speech, and those who asked tough questions (the vast majority, in my opinion) were exemplifying what should be productive debate by any standard. These protesters and speakers took a risk. In effect, they signed their names to their opinions, and they were derided for it. To hear Ashcroft, and then many in the April 24 edition of the paper, say that these people, too, were participating in uncivil discourse was a shock. What is civil discourse, then? To protest outside? If protest doesn’t confront its object, it is neutered. Not to demand answers? If protest doesn’t demand recognition, what’s the point?

No one prevented John Ashcroft from speaking but John Ashcroft, who interrupted his own speech to call the protesters childish. As the former Attorney General, Ashcroft should be accustomed to keeping his composure in environments like the Supreme Court, far more challenging than the one Knox provided. The inability to do so suggests to me that his convictions are ill-examined. Of course we can blame John Ashcroft for being defensive, aren’t we all accountable for our actions?

I’m saddened to think that civil discourse on this campus requires us to be passive recipients. And to those who apologized on behalf of the Knox community for the actions of the protesters; please speak only for yourselves. I am not, and will never be, embarrassed by protest of this sort.

– Alice Holbrook, ‘08

I would like to respond to a few of the letters and columns printed in the April 24 issue criticizing the actions of the black-hooded protesters at the John Ashcroft event. I decided to participate in this particular action because I support the concept of public protest in a broad sense. I believe that it is important to express dissenting opinions. I also enjoy making a statement through performance.

For these reasons, when I was invited to join the demonstration, I readily agreed. I do not regret this decision. I am not embarrassed by my actions. It was not easy to stand there and be taunted. Nor is it easy now to be told by my peers that I should be ashamed of myself. But I stand by the use of this mode of expression. While I wish its message could have been clearer, in the end that is not really the point. I cannot speak for the organizers of the demonstration, but for me the point was to visibly and symbolically oppose an ideology I disagree with.

However, not all forms of protest that occurred that night were productive. It is important to remember that each individual’s actions should not be lumped together. Multiple tactics were carried out independently. While I may not agree with all of the methods that different groups and individuals employed, I support their right to use them. Above all, we must not forget for many of us, that the situation called for protest. In that sense, I think we did the right thing.

– Rachel Bernkopf, ‘08

Knosher Bowl costs

I am writing to you in regards of a recent article that appeared in the TKS on April 17, 2008 entitled “Campus construction”. In the article it says that the Knosher Bowl renovation, when completed, will be more than twice as expensive as the $1.8 million first phase of the Bowl. In fact, the second phase of the Bowl renovation will be roughly $500,000 bringing the total cost of the project to $2.3 million which is considerably less than the reported amount. The second phase deals with restrooms, concessions area, a covered pavilion, and a storage building. The first phase will be completed late this summer and ready for the football team when they report August 18. The second phase will be done once fund raising is completed. Thank you for allowing me to clear up any confusion that might have been caused by the article.

– Chad Eisele, Director of Athletics

How open minded are you?

Wondering why your mailbox keeps asking you how open-minded you are about random things? Don’t,worry; Knox is not inviting a country music band to campus yet…(sorry if we got some hopes up). The tiny notes are not meant to annoy anyone or to provoke any negative implications that people are not open-minded—we apologize if the itty-bitty papers have come off that way. The intention for the little notes is to take just a little of your time to think about the relatively “small stuff”. Plus, they provide a great opportunity to exercise recycling skills…no? We hope so…

In all seriousness though, the notes are just an effort to get people thinking—just for a few seconds about subtle ways to confront division and prejudice. Basically, they are food for thought. How can we talk about the huge issues before considering minor differences? The notitas are just a tool to get people to think or laugh or react. Eventually, we would like to build confidence with the campus in order to have bigger discussions, but we need to introduce ourselves first; which will do later on as an organization in just a few more notes (hope that’s okay). Thanks for reading!

– Caroline Castro ’11 & Abby Peterson ‘08

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