I’m at the end of my first semester at West Chester University. I’ve made friends, gotten good grades and managed to pen about four articles for The Quad at the time of this article’s conception. I’ve written about things like the death penalty, censorship in music and political correctness. These aren’t the most cut-and-dry topics in the world, and I’ve been afraid, upon the publication of each and every article that I’ve written, that I would receive loads of hate from those who disagree with me.
This is a pretty common fear from new students. Many feel as though their opinions are not safe to share, and that they should keep their thoughts to themselves. This goes against the main intention of college. As a learning environment, students should be subjected to all sorts of opinions in order to sort through the options and find the ones with which they agree most.
The problem with this is that, simply put, nobody likes it when somebody disagrees with their views. As such, there’s an implicit censorship of dissent via clique mentality that interferes with the open exchange of ideas. People who believe in x will only associate with other people who believe in x, which leads to an echo chamber in which ideas are not scrutinized fairly and honestly.
I understand why it is more appealing to only talk to people with similar opinions; it’s easy to find something to connect with and get along. But when all dissent is done through shouting matches or Facebook groups, the core reason behind the dissent is lost. What’s the point of complaining about how bad conservatives are when you don’t discuss policy in an attempt to legitimately change their minds, or even compromise to find a stronger option that both parties support?
This is how our current political climate has gotten so hostile; conservatives hate liberals, liberals hate conservatives. The two parties have reached a point where identity politics have become so strong that any hope of a legitimate policy discussion is marred by vitriolic comments on the nature of the individual’s “group.”
Of course, it’s far more complex than this. But those nuanced problems of opinion—real issues of discourse that challenge the very nature of the political system and will lead to true change—can’t be solved until we open the dialogue between conflicting opinions. And this doesn’t apply solely to WCU; several of my friends, in various PA colleges, feel threatened to share their views because of labelling and identity politics. These are people who side with their colleagues on perhaps 80 percent of issues, but are shut down and abandoned simply for a differing 20 percent.
So here is what I leave you, incoming WCU students: speak your mind, independent of the labels that your opinion might associate you with. Be open to those who disagree with you; try to understand their argument as you attempt to make them understand yours. Many of these problems are those that do not have simple solutions, and in this currently divided system of “Left v. Right, Yes v. No,” none of the solutions will rise up if we are not willing to, at the very least, consider the other options.
Dean Cahill is a first-year student majoring in English literature. He can be reached at DC884286@wcupa.edu.