October 31, 2018 The Signal page 9
Liberal campuses stifle open discourse By Clare McGreevy
Your college years should be a time to learn and grow in all areas of your life. This is made possible in large part through the free and open conversation that the campus and classroom environments are meant to foster. Thanks to the College’s liberal learning requirements, all students find themselves in at least one discussion-based course that inevitably touches on critical political or social issues at some point in their undergraduate careers. These courses should serve as opportunities for all students to speak their minds and truly listen to the both similar and opposing opinions of their peers and professors. But for many students, instead of being met with fair consideration, they feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions in class because of a hostile environment of unapologetically intolerant peers and professors alike. It is a widely known stereotype that college campuses are breeding grounds for far-left thinking and political activism. Throughout history, each young generation has brought about energized progressive thoughts and
ideas as its members came of age to be politically active. This is an important contributing factor to the propulsion of sociopolitical change and development. It makes sense that social and political discussions in college classrooms are generally liberally biased. However, complete disregard for opposing opinions should not be an accepted aspect of classroom culture. No political discussion should be one-sided or closed off to opposing views. As an English major, many of my classes deal with contentious social issues. I witness the uncompromising hostility towards non-liberal opinions very often. I do not personally identify with any political party or ideology, and, like most independent individuals, I sometimes disagree with the far left agenda that is exclusively endorsed by class discussions. Most of my classmates and professors probably do not know this about me because it is seemingly impossible to voice dissenting opinions in the highly aggressive environment that is a discussion-based college course. While I often disagree with the prevailing opinion, I am by no means the most passionate about my oppositional views.
Before class begins or during small study group sessions, I sometimes hear peers discuss their discomfort with the intolerant classroom environment. Many of my close friends also often complain about the distress that they feel when sitting in the middle of a class discussion and feeling like they don’t have the freedom to speak their minds and contribute. Instead of encouraging students to think critically and openly debate contentious topics, the current classroom environment stifles dissent and forces a singular way of thinking on its members. Students who openly disagree with the prevailing opinions are usually met with condescension, aggression and disbelief. This situation is especially concerning considering the current national political climate. Our society is dangerously divided between two extreme opposites with little voice or recognition afforded to those of us on middle ground. On both sides, today’s extremists refuse even to treat opponents with standard levels of civility. After the 2016 election, I saw many posts on social media with messages along the lines of, “if you voted for Donald Trump, unfriend
Students fear backlash for sharing their opinions. me.” This is the type of intolerance that makes me want to unfriend you regardless of my political opinions. These extreme levels of intolerance can be seen regularly on campuses everywhere, and the College is no exception. Last semester, a pro-life display on green lawn was physically destroyed by students who disagreed with the demonstration’s message. Incidents like this are just larger and more public examples of the rampant intolerance that is manifested in everyday classroom discourse at the College. This type of behavior is aggressive, hostile and dangerous for both
the campus community and the larger culture of American politics and society. College campuses are crucial spots for sociopolitical reflection and activism, not to mention critical influencers over a large percentage of each generation entering adulthood and the workforce. The maintenance of open, balanced and tolerant discourse is crucial to the preservation of a healthy society. We must all remain open minded and considerate of others’ opinions now more than ever. This starts here, on our campus and in the classroom. Professors and students alike need to be more tolerant of all perspectives, not just their own.
Person first language essential for inclusion
Person first language separates individuals from their disabilities. By Colleen Rushnak Nearly one in five Americans has a disability, making them the nation’s largest minority, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As a person who is currently ablebodied, I do not think I will ever truly understand the life of a person with a disability. People with disabilities face injustices in nearly every aspect of their lives from people who refuse to understand their struggle. Although I am not able to comprehend
what life is like for America’s largest minority, I can treat people with disabilities with respect by fostering a positive environment with my words — person first language is essential to promoting full inclusion. Traditionally, mainstream society has treated people with disabilities as second-class citizens. It is common for those without disabilities to consistently disregard the way they address these 35 to 43 million Americans. Hushed voices and words with negative connotations have characterized the way that many
people speak about those with disabilities. A lack of knowledge, fear of offending people, and general disregard for others are all to blame for the way people slight those with disabilities. Although the language used to describe disabilities might seem trivial, it is crucial to remember that words matter. Language has consequences — it can both lift people up and tear them down. Person first language is the best way to promote inclusivity between people with disabilities and people without disabilities. For example, for an able bodied person naming a person by his or her disability by saying things like, “that Down’s kid,” “that autistic girl” or “that guy in a wheelchair,” is degrading and implies that a person is equivalent to his or her disability. The connotation behind words is just as important as the words themselves. The connotations behind words like “autistic” and “handicapped” carry historically adverse backgrounds. Person first language is a practice that emphasizes a person’s identity rather than his or her disability — this means mentioning a disability only when it is completely necessary, and using language that separates the disability from
the person. For example, I should say “My friend Jason has autism,” not “My friend Jason is autistic.” Another option is to use what is called identity first language. Self advocates are the biggest supporters of this kind of language. They see their disability as something that is deeply embedded in their personal identity, the same way someone would identify with their religion or ethnicity. Although some self advocates argue otherwise, I think person first language is respectful in the sense that it places emphasis on the individual and not on what they are unable to do. Individuals who have disabilities are so much more than what they are unable to do. People with disabilities have talents, favorite books, least favorite foods and all the wonderful attributes that make an individual different. By branding people by their disability –– which is only a single part of their identity –– we are perpetuating the myth that individuals are simply the equivalent of what they are unable to do. People do not call me “that girl who can’t sing,” so why should we use this type of language when referring to people with disabilities?
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The 10/31/18 issue of The Signal, The College of New Jersey's student newspaper