A need for speaker diversity

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As someone who was a split-ticket voter in the 2016 Presidential and Gubernatorial elections, I commonly walk the line between progressive and conservative politics. When I arrived at Muhlenberg College on August 26, I wasn’t sure whether my fellow classmates would lean more towards the left or more right. While it might be naive in 2017 to hope that a college campus would be politically moderate, I was expecting a campus which was tolerant of a large part of the political spectrum.

After settling into my classes, I was curious to see what kind of speakers Muhlenberg would invite to their campus. In my US Congress and Media and Society Intersectionality classes, I was assigned to attend several talks hosted in communal spaces. The first and only talk I have seen so far was William Mazzarella’s speech on Trump and the concept of “jouissance.” Mazzarella’s speech tried to specifically highlight the psychological pleasure of citizens who hate Trump’s presidency, but enjoy the ability to freely criticize his policy and conservative fervor.

While I did enjoy Mazzarella’s talk, and found it quite informative, it tended to skip over reasons why Trump supporters have still stuck with him today. In my mind, at least, this creates a feedback loop which doesn’t explain why people voted for him in the first place in addition to reinforcing more negative stereotypes of conservative voters.

I am afraid, however, of what the consequences would be if a more conservative speaker was invited to our campus. In light of the protests which have occurred at UC Berkeley, most of which have turned violent, I wonder where Muhlenberg stands on supporting the freedom of speech of their students.

I am not the only one who believes that college campuses have been unfair in inviting other views to the table. This summer, for example, Johns Hopkins University announced a $150 million effort to “establish a forum for the civil discussion of divisive issues.”  Additionally, in 2016, the University of Chicago established the “Committee on Freedom of Expression,” composed of a range of faculty members led by University president Robert J. Zimmer. The report concluded that, “without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university.”

In conclusion, I would strongly recommend that Muhlenberg take a more active approach in finding more politically balanced orators who tell both sides of the story. I am more impressed by a speech which brings facts and reasonable arguments to the student body as opposed to one that takes a narrow minded stance meant to support one point of view. It is important that students who are still growing throughout their college years receive equal, unbiased reports about not only their country and local politics, but international news as well during this pivotal time. I hope in the upcoming weeks and months at Muhlenberg I can experience a larger variety of opinions which will expand my knowledge of the world we live in.

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