Students at the College of William and Mary have found that a new round of debates on the validity and social acceptability of certain ideas has taken hold of campus. Just in these past two weeks, a student at the College published a controversial article on the role of trans politics in Greek life. This sparked a campus-wide debate on the role of fraternities and sororities in creating a more inclusive campus. Some Greek organizations have readily embraced the thought of transgender students joining their ranks. Some students have expressed distaste at the idea of men and women joining the same fraternity or sorority.
This conversation about Greek life has not been the only one we have witnessed. Increased antagonization between political opposites and the tug-of-war between those who promote safe spaces versus those who promote the freedom to say things how we please are just two of the polarizing topics being discussed on campus right now.
I think these discussions are good to have. They are not fun, they can be painful and uncomfortable for some students, and they can polarize large groups of people. But we need to have them, as unsavory as the ideologies attached may be.
We cannot brush these ideas aside and hope they go away. We have to confront them, head on, and not jerk away when someone says something that does not fit our understanding of social acceptability. We must talk about it with these people and try to gain an understanding of what they believe.
These conversations allow us to reevaluate what we hold dear in our society, and we can only become more progressive by challenging our beliefs and assumptions.
These conversations allow us to reevaluate what we hold dear in our society, and we can only become more progressive by challenging our beliefs and assumptions. National protest and discussion helped prompt the creation of the Civil Rights Act. The very core of our country comes from a group of people sitting down in a room and saying, “This isn’t right.” Discussion spurs action.
These conversations also help us grow as people. We learn to not attack and tear each other down, but debate ideas and preconceptions instead of character traits and people’s backgrounds. Our community is not the best at this. A student here was verbally torn apart for an article he wrote, and some students targeted him for being straight, white, privileged and cisgender. Nothing is wrong with dissecting his opinion and stating why you think it is incorrect/reactionary/whatever, and it is ok to explain to someone why you think their background might make them biased against other thoughts. But there is no reason to consider him sub-human and undeserving of basic respect. I think his belief is outdated and incorrect, especially in our community. I think he should re-evaluate what he thinks the role of Greek life on campus is. But he is still a member of the College community, and he is still a member of my Tribe.
Flame wars that are full of ad hominem attacks and character degradation belong to our parents and relatives on Facebook. I think students at the College are above that.
Email Hank Blackburn at [email protected]