Students and faculty must oppose uncritical thinking

by Marty Branyon

The campus conversation over free speech has been garnering a lot of attention, especially in the Daily.

Article after article is published where conservative groups on campus like Collegians For a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), the College Republicans, Turning Point USA and Students for a Conservative Voice — publishers of The Minnesota Republic — complain about how their opinions are not respected on campus.

It’s a very good thing that these groups feel that their opinions are not welcome on campus because they represent uncritical, unacademic and violent thinking. Students and faculty need to be outspoken and organize against the undermining of our university by these groups.

Universities are a place where critical thinking is used to discuss real social problems and their solutions. These groups, which share members and political ideologies, undermine the university as an academic and critical thinking space.

Take CFACT, for example. Last year, a similar discussion over free speech was brought up when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) called a protest to oppose CFACT bringing the real-life internet troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, to campus.

Milo believes that rape culture is a myth used by liberals to oppress men and that lesbian and transgender folks do not exist, among other bizarre, objectively incorrect and violent ideas.

When criticized for these absurd points, Milo’s supporters routinely harass and threaten violence and sexual assault against those who call them out on their lies (see Leslie Jones and the multitude of activists around the country who face such harassment).

Not only are the ideas that groups like CFACT bring to campus unacademic and uncritical, but they also bring a brand of discussion that includes threats of violence against those who don’t agree with them. Students and faculty who value critical and peaceful discussion should not tolerate this kind of politics on campus.

The College Republicans’ rhetoric and response to criticism of the “Build the Wall” mural is similarly violent and uncritical.

Trump’s rhetoric itself is nonsensical and nonacademic. However, the conservative attack on students who have taken the statement personally is even more troubling.

Recent letters and quotes in articles argued that the rhetoric of “build the wall” has nothing to do with violence inflicted on immigrants.

The border wall already in place has objectively killed thousands of people, and adding to it would certainly cause more deaths. The letters in question downplay and delegitimize the experiences of those affected by the brutal violence that their policy proposals represent, and even tell them to get off campus.

Opinions that seek to delegitimize real-life experiences because of an abstract notion of “free speech” are again unacademic, uncritical and antagonistic to having respectful conversations on campus.

The far-right conservative groups that spew the exclusionary and violent rhetoric described above undermine our university environment. Students and faculty that value our university need to stand together to make our university a place that fosters a critical, respectful and academic environment for all students.

Marty Branyon

UMN Student

Editor’s Note: This letter has been edited for style and clarity.