Letter to the Editor 2/5/15

To many individuals at Vassar,

The United States of America is a country that has failed its citizens. They see a society torn apart by income disparity and injustice, a universe in which police stalk the streets on the hunt for minorities while whites walk untouched. They see a country dependent on corporations; an octopus of sorts with tentacles stretching all over our lives.

Students compose their hatred toward our nation in a variety of ways. Sometimes they engage in protest, be it verbal or otherwise. Oftentimes, they write condemning remarks on social media, where their friends, comrades in their great struggle, “like” and “share” their words. These activities, however harmless by themselves, serve to ferment a particularly dangerous attitude.

But this attitude is not present in the majority of freshmen, who come from largely tolerant neighborhoods that encouraged conversation on all topics. However, once these students go through their first year, their gift of flexible views morphs into what can only be called “relative tolerance.” While claiming to have “recognized their privilege,” “become a minority ally” or “joined the fight against the patriarchy,” these students have done nothing more than surrender their ability to say what they wish. More important is the impact that their concession has on students who don’t necessarily agree with the majority opinions at Vassar. What occurs after the paradigm shift is nothing less than censorship, carried out by students, but implicitly encouraged by professors administrators too. Students who publicly state an idea not recognized by this relative tolerance are shamed and verbally abused with words once reserved for true monsters, “racist” and “misogynist” being the most popular.

There is value in political correctness, but I argue that at Vassar College, an institution that should espouse discourse from all spectra, the obsession with political correctness must take a backseat to freedom of speech. This country was founded on compromise, and encouraging single-minded fanaticism is not only un-American, but it prevents any real discussion beyond the statement of the majority opinion.

I am not on the radical right. Heck, were I to walk into a GOP conference and give a speech, I would most likely be tossed out. One would think that this would be a prerequisite to engage in relatively nonpartisan debate. However, I cannot count the number of times that when I was speaking to a student, they would storm away as soon as I started talking. This behavior, besides being extremely rude, is unfair to me. My opinions can come across as offensive, but is it possible for you to give me the benefit of the doubt and trust I have a reason for them? I try to get information from every source imaginable—I actually read more left-wing publications than right-wing—and only after careful review do I then present my opinion. It is incredibly degrading when students, after reading Huffpost, Vice, The New Republic, or BuzzFeed, then go on a crusade, treating me as some ignorant racist white man bent on the oppression of all others. Far from recognizing the bias in their selected publication, they tout it as the one and only “truth,” and then attack those who present the contrary. I find it hard to believe that students are purposefully trying to limit debate, due to the high level of intellect present at this campus, but I fear that pressures from a vocal minority stifle any attempt of revolt against the status quo.

This note is not meant to be similar to the aggressive article penned by the Princeton student who railed against the liberal perception of privilege, nor is it meant to offend anyone. This letter hopefully serves as an appeal primarily to the freshman class, many of you who may feel your voice stifled and your former beliefs not accepted. Recognize that the loudest are rarely rational, and anyone attempting to alter your opinion without listening to yours doesn’t deserve your time. After all, if you want to flirt with extremism at Vassar, at least try both sides of the coin. You might just be surprised at what the other side holds.

—Pieter Block ’18

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