By Luke Wathen
Political polarization is an unsettling issue in today’s society. Whether drifting left or right to the extremes of liberalism and conservatism, people are becoming more and more drastic with their political beliefs.
Nowhere is this truer than on college campuses. Around the country, college students are blindly protesting things that they have no understanding of and lashing out at anyone who disagrees. When approached with any sort of counter-argument, they genuinely resort to insults or even violence.
Google any college’s name followed by the word protest. You are sure to find hundreds of videos of college students causing a public disturbance, shouting down dissent and, frankly, disrupting the lives of all around them.
These subjects of protest range in topic and seriousness but more often than not are over remarkably trivial issues. The University of Massachusetts Amherst made the news earlier this year because of an event dubbed “The Triggering”: student groups loudly disrupted a speaking panel attended by conservative speakers. Their grievances were astoundingly petty and ultimately boiled down to them screaming that their feelings were hurt.
The University of Missouri also made the news last fall as a result of the campus-wide walk offs that took place in protest over the alleged racism taking place on campus. Again, opposition was shouted down and a professor even advocated for the physical assault of a student journalist who was simply videotaping the event.
This sort of behavior is dangerously harmful and these actions teach a terrible lesson. Colleges are meant to be a bastion of free speech where ideas are supposed to be challenged in a civil and engaging manner. By simply protesting anything that they do not agree with, students are blinding themselves to dissent and robbing themselves of the ability to confront views that they do not agree with.
Worse yet, by allowing these actions to continue undeterred, universities are complicit in this emotional stunting of college students.
Despite the penchant for protesting and overall annoyance that seems to be plaguing college campuses across America, Salisbury University has shown itself as an exception to this rule. No issues seem to “trigger” students to such a degree that they resort to protests or mindless violence, something that most of us should be proud of.
This was made apparent to me during a panel discussion with SU’s political science department on the presidential election and each candidate’s view on controversial issues. Sensitive topics such as terrorism and immigration were discussed at fair length and no apologies were given to anyone who may or may not have been offended.
Astoundingly, no one was phased. No one complained of being “triggered,” there was no disruption and those that disagreed with the panelists engaged in a healthy dialogue with them. It was almost as if they were capable of civil discourse.
That is what colleges today are lacking—civil discourse. By fleeing from opposing ideas and shouting down those that offend them, college students around the country are purposefully stunting themselves emotionally and intellectually. You do not always have to agree with someone, but you should at least be willing to hear why they feel a certain way on an issue.
Let schools like SU serve as an example of how to behave when confronted with a new idea. Rather than fear and hate the opposition, take some time to think about why others feel the way that they do about an issue and reevaluate your own stance. Rather than blindly shouting them down, you may very well find yourself agreeing with them.