The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Clarion, its staff or the institution. If you would like to submit a response or an opinion piece of your own, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Timothy Hinnenkamp
Here it is, plain and simple. Bethel has a serious problem with being too sensitive. This is not a problem of academics but of community. Every time something comes up that is mildly offensive or uncomfortable, we shut down. We plea for the administration to address it and fix the problem when we should be trying to handle it ourselves.
We are so wrapped up in this overly sensitive attitude that we see one poster that offends us and instead of seeking to understand why they think that, we shut it down. We don’t want to hear it or see it. As if our ideology is so fragile that any opposition will make us angry and uncomfortable. At Bethel we are learners, are we not? Did we not enroll at Bethel to achieve a diploma in our chosen field? If you expected to go to college and be surrounded by what makes you feel comfortable then I have a news flash for you. Life is not comfortable. Life is not easy. Life is not catering.
If you want to live then you are going to have to address what life throws at you because if you don’t, life has a great way of reminding you what you don’t want to see. People at college will say things, do things and create things that will make you feel uncomfortable or even nervous. Now, rather than hiding from that, let’s go over how we as a community can address these challenges and find ways to grow and learn.
First, you are walking through the BC and you see a poster with something on it that offends you. Your initial response is anger, frustration and maybe confusion.
“How could someone possibly think this way?” you may ask.
This is where you pause, and ask yourself: “why do they think this way?” Ask yourself what led them to this system of beliefs. Then realize that whomever made this poster has a different perspective than you. They have a different life experience and see the world differently. It is all about perspective!
Now, as you have thought about these things, go to the event in question. This is the hardest step but the most necessary step. Show up and listen to what they have to say. You will learn why they have their beliefs. How they came to that point. Maybe you will even see good points in their arguments.
Do not go to the event to respond. Go to the event to listen and understand.
When you have grasped what they have said and you understand their argument – then game on. Debate, challenge and question. In doing so, know that they will also do the same. They will use their argument to fight against you. This is OK. Defend your point to the best of your ability. If you feel you have reached an impasse then you politely end the conversation by agreeing to disagree or by trying to find a little bit of common ground.
That’s it. That is all you need to do. No one has to change their mind or be swayed. You don’t have to radically alter your perspective if you attend. Now, you are better off because you have learned something new, can grow and in the future you will have the tools necessary to respond to their arguments.
One final word: everyone has free speech. Everyone has the right to be offensive. That’s not to say that they should try to be offensive, but they have that right. You have the option to be offended. How you respond to these posters is your choice. You can choose to be offended and try to pretend like it doesn’t exist or you can choose to take it as a challenge and learn from it.
No more tearing down posters.