Thu. Jan 27th, 2022

Something funny happened recently that I feel to be worth sharing with other students, both on campus and across the country. As per my norm, I was excited when I received an email from the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) about their plans for the upcoming “WCU Celebrates Diversity for All” series of events. In the past, the school has done wonderful things regarding issues of diversity, such as bringing Jonathon Rauch on campus a few years back, an event that was of supreme interest to me, both as a member of the gay demographic and as a staunch advocate for freedom of speech and expression (as well as that freedom’s implicit responsibility). However, upon opening the PDF describing this year’s events, I was dismayed — no, shocked — by the fundamental and conspicuous lack of diversity of the schedule. Not from a demographic perspective — different ethnic, gender, and sexuality categories are all appropriately represented — but from the perspective of ideological or viewpoint diversity. I immediately wrote to Hiram Martinez, Assistant Director of Diversity Initiatives, about the issue in the hopes of understanding how such a thing could occur, especially in the year 2020.

For instance, I brought up the issue of Dr. Angela Davis, who will be the keynote speaker at the multicultural conference at Ruby Jones Hall. It should be noted that one can argue that Dr. Davis is one of the most polarizing and inflammatory speakers of the contemporary left-wing. That in itself isn’t a problem; in fact, I welcome the chance to attend such lectures if only because I disagree with her (and others who hold her positions) on so many topics and seek to expand my “horizon” of understanding through well-intentioned dialogue, to borrow the Gadamerian notion. However, I made it clear that as best as I could tell, there was little to nothing scheduled in the way of discussion from centrist, right-wing or any non-social justice aligned ideological perspectives to balance speakers such as Davis out. For a school that prides itself on inclusivity and diversity, this, to me, is unacceptable. Effectively, what events such as these do, as an unintentional abdication of the pursuit of greater Truth, is add to the ideological homogeneity of the academy, thus depriving our students and faculty of the well-rounded experience they will need to be a truly effective force in the world-as-such. I made it clear to Martinez that I was curious as to how the ODEI planned on rectifying this issue and if they had no plans on doing anything of the sort, I wanted to know why. I think it is reasonable to suggest that we cannot claim to be a diverse and inclusive institution if we participate in a sort of Marcusean “repressive tolerance” when it comes to students who may or may not fit into the typical “liberal” student mold. As of the writing of this text, there has been no response regarding the matter. No lip-service from the ODEI about their respect for ideological or viewpoint diversity, only some hackneyed, boilerplate response from the office proclaiming to care about the issues of the student body. Our institution seems to be at a loss for words regarding such an issue. Or, maybe they just don’t care.

When presidential candidate Joe Biden suggested that the country is “in a battle for the soul of the nation,” he was, and is right, as much as it pains me to agree with the man. Fellow students and academic professionals: we are at a crossroads. Recently, a fellow gay student and close friend of mine was doxxed for simply holding different views on specific, key topics than members of the orthodox position on campus, an act I feel that can really only be attributed to the aforementioned homogeneous environment of academia. Similarly, in discussions with other students I’ve been labeled a “non-Ally” and “self-hating homophobe” for simply attempting to hold my community — the gay community — accountable for its faults and failings, of which there are many. Is this who we are? Is this what we do now? Tear down people who hold reasonable beliefs that differ from our own? I refuse to accept that as the reality of the situation. I’ve been a Golden Ram since 2015; I received my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree from this institution. We’ve always been an institution where coming-to-understanding has been a priority, where the pursuit (operative phrase) of Truth has always provided a continuity of purpose for the educative body. The ODEI, and ostensibly, the institution itself, seems to have lost focus of that goal. I say this to everyone, although it is most important for my younger cohorts: demand a heterodoxic curriculum. Pursue and encourage an environment that privileges viewpoint diversity above all else. I shudder to think about what will happen should we fail to do so, should we neglect our duty to greater understanding. The academy and the purpose it serves would cease to exist, instead replaced by yet another pseudo-religious, tyrannical structure.   

 

 

Ryan Wasser is a continuing adult learner pursuing his second MA in philosophy. He received his MA in English in 2019. RW851045@wcupa.edu

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