Speak freely; be bold

During the Sept. 22 Student Union Senate meeting, IfNotNow’s Brandeis chapter presented to senators on why it should become a chartered club. While attending the meeting, members of The Brandeis Hoot, along with other senators and IfNotNow club members, noticed that much of the conversation over chartering the club was focused mostly on IfNotNow’s political nature. After an initial miscount and eventual denial of chartership, IfNotNow did not pursue chartered status, according to an earlier Hoot article.

IfNotNow’s political views should not affect the Senate’s decision of whether or not to charter it as an official club, and furthermore, students’ political views should not prevent them from participating in campus discussions. The conversation at the Senate meeting, mostly focused on political viewpoints, brings up a broader issue on Brandeis’ campus: freedom of speech on political issues. 

Brandeis has a reputation as a liberal university, with its founding as a nonsectarian institution  that welcomes all students regardless of backgrounds or beliefs. And while many students identify as having left-leaning political views, students who may not necessarily maintain the same viewpoints as the majority face criticism and oftentimes feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions with their peers. 

In 2016, The Hoot conducted a survey on campus looking into the political leanings of students. The survey concluded that “64 percent of the students identify as some degree of a Democrat or liberal, 20 percent consider themselves independents and 13 percent identify as some degree of Republican or conservative.” 

The survey also found that 40 percent of students do not share their political views on campus because they do not want to be verbally attacked for their political views. Twelve percent of students choose to not share their views because they do not want their professors to judge them if they expressed said views.

What we are not doing is opening the door to white supremacists who would seek to spread hate. We want to encourage people to feel comfortable on campus, but not at the expense of anyone else’s comfort.

This year’s Critical Conversations, a new series of talks for incoming first-year students, has the theme of “truth,” yet the poll from 2016 suggests that students are afraid to speak their own truth in fear of being reprimanded by their peers and professors. Today’s campus climate is equally, if not more, unproductive; with last year’s acts of political activism, it appears clear that it is unstable and will not be able to last.

If students do not feel comfortable talking with their peers or professors about their beliefs, political or otherwise, then discourse on campus will be homogeneous and one-sided, with the majority-liberal student body’s views taking precedence over anything perceived as controversial on campus. There is a culture of dismissing or attacking people who express these controversial ideas, instead of addressing them and conducting a productive debate or conversation that may broaden both parties’ points of view.

People are entitled to their own opinions, so it is important to be respectful of that. Being cognizant of the fact that everyone is affected by various issues in different ways is critical. It is how we build respect for our fellow students. 

In writing this editorial, we as The Hoot Editorial Board realized that we did not share the same opinions on topics surrounding campus politics. However, the fact that we were able to work together to write this article and will continue to work together next week means that it is possible for people with contrasting views to express them and still coexist. 

We want students to engage with different beliefs without making others feel silenced. “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold,” as Louis D. Brandeis, our university namesake once wrote. So let’s be bold. 

Editor’s Note: Senior News Editor Celia Young did not contribute to this editorial

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