Freeman: Beyond Professing Solidarity
Fighting oppressive views requires dialogue, not censorship.
A guest column under the title “You’re Not Tripping” was published in The Dartmouth on Feb. 2, criticizing the hiring process of the First-Year Trips directorate. Many campus groups have since responded with campus-wide emails proclaiming their support for the Trips directorate, which the column’s author Ryan Spector ’19 accused of gender bias in its selection procedures. Several of the groups responded in a way that supported the manipulation of free speech. One can only hope these were premature declarations and not serious calls for censorship.
As a community, Dartmouth’s students must stand in solidarity with what they deem is good — for example, the Trips directorate — when they are publicly misrepresented. But should students support the silencing or manipulation of open debate? No matter how distasteful, we cannot. Many of the campus-wide emails, I believe, inadvertently proclaimed that the College and its students should support the restriction of free speech.
Concerning statements within the “solidarity” emails sent out to the Dartmouth community included a call on The Dartmouth to “apologize for providing” a platform for the article. Other emails condemned The Dartmouth for its “decision to publish this article.”
Did this article’s author imply that well-deserving students at Dartmouth should feel like they weren’t fit for the leadership roles they earned? Yes. For this, should he apologize? Sure.
But, as a community, there is a way to respond to this incident that will have stronger, longer-lasting effects than any proclamation of solidarity could. This op-ed should be looked upon as a greater narrative surrounding Dartmouth’s campus as a whole. Let it show those who are naïve, who live in a safe bubble with their friends and have never faced prejudice, that arrogant prejudice is in fact active around them. Let it show others — those students who might have read that article and felt that it validated their opinion — that if they want to flaunt their obliviousness, they will be called out. Let it remind them that their views are not inherent truths so that they can begin to understand the respect that any person, female or male, deserves. Finally, let it remind every single one of us, however cognizant or incognizant of social issues surrounding marginalization, to look to and understand not only those around us but ourselves. Let us search for any and every illogical view that we might not even know we have, and let us realize, work through and subsequently disregard them.
It is one thing to proclaim support for a person or group you believe to have been wrongly attacked, but it is another to denounce a media platform for letting an opposing opinion be heard. Denouncing a newspaper and its staff is not only unreasoned but anti-democratic. This is the last thing we, as a community, should be advocating for during a time when false portrayal of and within the media is extremely prevalent, not only in our society but worldwide. In the United States, President Donald Trump frequently attacks supposed “fake news,” and it is becoming more and more difficult to find objective or unbiased news sources in mainstream media. In France and Brazil, governments have been given new powers of control and censorship in response to perceived fake news threats. Elsewhere, the media is already thoroughly censored. In China, authorities are able to manipulate news stories by declaring that they jeopardize state secrets. Due to the vague definition of what state secrets might entail, the state is able to censor any media reports it believes to be harmful to its economic or political interests. We are lucky, in the United States, to have our freedom of speech. It is not a right to be taken for granted. Heightened media censorship is not the answer to our problems, nor do I believe it is something that most students on this campus genuinely want.
In an email distributed to the Dartmouth community on Feb. 4, the Dartmouth Open Campus Coalition expressed its support of the Trips directorate without denigrating the idea of free speech. The group’s email read in part, “We do not support any position on any argument, but we support the rights of all arguments to be expressed openly.” It also responded to previous reactions toward The Dartmouth by re-establishing the importance of an “open dialogue, rather than shutting each other down.” In its email, the DOCC cited official College policy, which states that “the College both fosters and protects the rights of individuals to express dissent.” Therefore, although Spector’s rhetoric may not have been agreeable, it does have a right not to be restricted or controlled. Freedom of speech, wrote the DOCC, “is a constitutionally protected human right that allows us to bring about change;” further, “this freedom cannot take sides.”
The publication of “You’re Not Tripping” must be looked upon as an opportunity to spread awareness and promote real change, not to condemn media sources for opting against censorship. Sending emails supporting the manipulation of free speech will not make any gender or race feel less isolated. We all need to look inside ourselves to reveal our truest values and beliefs, while continuing to consider objective information. Let us leave the aggressive rhetoric in public places so that it can show everyone in our community the thoughts that remarkably do occur amongst our own. Let these angry words bring our campus together. Despite our different identities, united by renewed faith in our mutual respect, we can stand together.