Ideological intolerance on campus

Political stereotypes at the University invite low-caliber discourse.

by Jacqueline Caston

Our campus prides itself on diversity and tolerance; it embraces various backgrounds and perspectives and encourages students to express themselves in a manner that promotes and protects this environment of acceptance. When I came to the University of Minnesota, I imagined, in my naïveté, a place where these perspectives and viewpoints could converge in an open intellectual forum to foster the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, what I came to realize was that âÄútoleranceâÄù here excludes certain groups and ideologies from its graces. An example of how we fall short of these ideals was provided recently through an act of vandalism on the Washington Avenue Bridge. Someone wrote âÄúGet a clueâÄù on the College RepublicansâÄô panel. Now, whether or not you agree with conservative or libertarian viewpoints, the act was unacceptable. Such expressions enforce the mindset that there is only one correct ideology and that anyone who sees things differently is clueless or misinformed. This also constitutes a blatant disregard for our efforts as a community to foster an environment of tolerance and respect. Republican students have as much a right to their beliefs as Democrats do. To be truly tolerant, we must be able to respect not just those who agree with us but those who disagree with us. Yes, this would appear to be a common sense definition, but since we are still dealing with frequent acts of hypocritical intolerance, it is apparently still worth iterating. IâÄôd like to see the campus actually live up to the standards it so proudly claims to meet in orientations and college pamphlets. Students should not be alienated and disrespected on campus âÄî whether in the classroom, in clubs, in social settings or at volunteer events âÄîbecause of their ideologies. Professors and students who stray from the curriculum in classes to poke fun at Republican candidates, to insult conservative media sources, to enforce party stereotypes, to allow degrading partisan discussions or to promote political messages that alienate conservative students âÄî who pay as much for an academic education as their liberal counterparts âÄî display a deliberate disregard for the rights of these students to freedom of speech, beliefs and expression. This is not to say that all ideological discrimination goes one way. We are one community, and the fact that this intolerance is occurring is both the fault of those perpetrating it and those allowing it to take place. In general, we need to remember that we arenâÄôt simply addressing ideas but the people behind them. I can tell you that it is extremely frustrating to go out of my way to consider and respect my peersâÄô opinions while I am attacked or rejected from conversation for expressing my own. Anti-right attitudes and stereotyping are both insultingly prevalent and tragically tolerated. While we are consistently bombarded with the message that stereotyping is a harmful dividing force in a community, political stereotypes are applied with such regularity that I canâÄôt help but wonder if we as a student body have gone so far in believing them that we now fail to categorize such pigeonholing as discrimination. I hope my fellow students can at least agree that our opinions and ideologies are complex and that humans are far more complex. By reducing each other to elements of a category and falling prey to the primitive âÄúusâÄù and âÄúthemâÄù mindset, we are missing out on the informative nuance of othersâÄô opinions and therefore also failing to truly understand one another. By banking on stereotypes, we allow ourselves to become more and more ignorant. Ignorance is not what we hoped for when we took out our rather large student loans. We came to this University for its tolerance and variety, but it appears that, at least in the political realm, what is most socially tolerated is intolerance. Let us work to create a more productive intellectual environment by engaging in respectful modes of discourse rather than divisive ones. Jacqueline Caston University undergraduate student