My summer has been preoccupied with following this year’s presidential election and other happenings. I comb through the mass of commentators, economists, lawyers, news networks, academics, and experts for a comprehensive perspective on current events. Regardless of their beliefs, I listen.
I often find that I agree with some points my biases would otherwise dismiss. Some of the commentary is hard to sit through, but I remain tolerant. The student bodies of some universities do not share the same patience with guest speakers. I’m referring directly to this year’s protesting, and even banning, of Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire, and Milo Yiannopoulos, technology editor of Breitbart News, on these campuses and several others.
Both men attract resistance at their events, where venues are forced to increase security and route their entrances and exits through secret pathways.
Bomb threats at UCLA, attendees being barred from entry by protestors, stages being stormed by protestors at DePaul University, microphones being taken from speakers (also at DePaul), shouting matches between protestors and attendees, and crowd outbursts that range from waving protest signs to people pouring fake blood on themselves (Rutgers University) have all occurred in one Milo Yiannopoulos university speaking tour.
Recently, Ben Shapiro was banned from speaking at DePaul University, citing security concerns from threats of violence.
Shapiro and Yiannopoulos are lecturing based on their independent beliefs, using research to back their claims. These students’ actions exhibit their inability to tolerate opinions that are contrary to their own, attempting to censor the figures themselves rather than the content of their lectures. A dangerous precedent is on the verge of being established: the ability to censor through threats of violence.
People have the right to protest just as much as speakers have the right to perform at their events; both are protected under the first amendment. It changes when protestors bar entry or inhibit the event from taking place because they don’t agree with what is being said.
I am not advocating for, or rallying support behind Shapiro or Yiannopoulos. The recent actions by protestors and universities needs to be explicated regardless of who it happens to. This is a warning to the dangers of imposing a person’s beliefs over another.
San Antonio has become home to an initiative to highlight differences in opinion to reach solutions. The Texas Public Radio Program’s “Dare to Listen” campaign advocates for the ability to collaborate with people of all perspectives. Has intolerance become so widespread that campaigns need to be created to spread awareness for listening?
The problems we face today can be solved only when multiple points of view are given a fair assessment. You do not have to support opinions that do not align with your own, but you owe it to yourself to listen. It could mean the difference between continued conflict and a welcomed resolution.
When I moved to San Antonio to attend university, I was welcomed to a campus-culture of driven, diverse students in pursuit of something much larger than themselves. I don’t wish to see it compromised.
The university is an intellectual space. Period. It should not cater to the beliefs of one individual to another, or compromise its air of free flowing thought and expression out of fear. Universities should welcome students and speakers of all perspectives, and take action when the rights of either are violated.
If we, as students, are not capable of challenging what we read, what we learn, or our own opinions, our place in academia is one of irony and requires a major reassessment.