Threats to open and free discourse from the left and right.
Campus events of the last week show how the right of free expression is threatened from both ends of the political spectrum in today’s super-charged climate. From the therapeutic left, there is the letter the dean of students staff sent to the leaders of student organizations, counseling concern for the climate on campus. Unfortunately, the letter audaciously lumped The Badger Herald’s publication of David Horowitz’s ad against reparations for slavery with such actions as hate crime assaults, regular assaults and sexual assault. While most of the country is affirming the virtues of the “home of the brave,” the dean of students office fears that vibrant discourse is the cause of shattered souls.
From the right, there is — ironically — the recent appearance of David Horowitz’s screed against anti-war protesters, published in the Herald. While I believe that many anti-war protestors’ views are naively mistaken about the threats America faces and the need to employ the necessary means to protect the nation, I strongly disagree with the way in which Horowitz essentially links (with or without subtlety) such protestors to treason. The line between strong criticism of dissenters’ views and accusations (or insinuations) of disloyalty is sometimes thin, but it represents the difference between respect for the rights of dissent and the road to McCarthyism.
As America struggles to deal with its complex social and international problems, we need to be exposed to the views of all individuals and groups who have the courage to hurl their voices into the marketplace of ideas. In the absence of evidence of criminal conduct, linking those whose views we hate to such crimes as hate and sexual assaults or treason is simply unacceptable.
Professor, political science
I have been a Wisconsin mom for six years now and have attended numerous sporting events. While I was sitting in the stands at Camp Randall this past Saturday, it was evident to me that the football team wasn’t the only thing quiet in the stadium. Where was the great music that is usually played over the loud speaker during timeouts and quarter changes? Bucky and our fabulous band, cheerleaders and spirit squad did their best to pump up the crowd, but there was something obviously lacking. Music is such a motivator and our student section always responds to the loud music played. The game just seemed flat without it. I hope that at the next game I can cheer along with “Brown Eyed Girl.”
With the approach of Generation 2008, a forum to address UW-Madison’s minority recruitment policy, it is worthwhile to reflect on the forum’s significance in terms of the importance of having a racially diverse university.
One of biggest reasons for attending school is undeniably to learn what other people have already figured out, or at least contemplated. By analyzing their discoveries and using their knowledge, we strive to develop our own understanding of the world. At the same time, we are exposed to the present ponderings of our professors, fellow students and others. Our perspectives are largely shaped by how we react to all of this information.
People make decisions and act based on their perspectives, and these decisions and actions affect the surrounding world on a multitude of scales. Being at least exposed to and aware of different perspectives is something which is incredibly important in a world which is constantly becoming more interconnected. By encouraging more racial diversity on our campus, we are striving to improve our own exposure to the variety of perspectives in our country. Wisconsin admittedly is not a very racially diverse state. From our present condition, it is clear that if we don’t actively encourage and welcome diversity at our university, minority students will find more friendly places to go. As a long-run consequence to this, our society suffers from people who do not understand each other, and thus are unable to live and work peaceably together.