February 9, 2017
Straying from its usual panoply of liberal visiting lecturers, the Hamilton Community has invited speakers with unexplored takes on commonly dis- cussed campus issues this semester--and, importantly, students have been attending.
Wall Street Journal Columnist Kimberley Strassel came to the Hill in January to lecture on her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silenc- ing Free Speech. She advocated for more conservative conversation on col- lege campuses, walked us through the history of free speech in America and excoriated the left for their “intimidation tactics” when confronting the con- servative agenda. We covered this event as we would any other news story. Surprisingly, a slew of opinion articles that either defended, challenged or criticized Strassel’s argument emerged in response. It is heartening to see stu- dents engaging with these issues and challenging one another. While not all debates have been diplomatic, they have nonetheless encouraged the growth of innovative ideas and solutions in these politically tumultuous times.
Janet Halley’s lecture series was attended both by people who agreed with her message and by those who objected to her stance on sexual assault and sought to challenge the solutions she proposes. Despite the variety of views in the room, students and faculty alike held a respectful discussion with Hal- ley following her presentation. When it comes to an issue as divisive on this campus as sexual misconduct, it is encouraging to see students exercise their agency to question the existing system, as well as challenge norms while trying to understand opposing views. At the same time, this generally liberal campus is not bending to normalize what we as a community find unjust in favor of working together. The community continues to act, to protest issues they feel are important and to fight against social and moral ills. During a political age of rampant polarization and hyperpartisanship, it remains criti- cal to stand our ground and hold onto our values while continuing to have an open mind.
Echo chambers, controlled environments where one is mostly exposed to similar opinions and worldviews, are becoming a significant hurdle to the dis- course needed for progress to occur in this country. Bringing speakers whose perspectives differ from the mainstream is a crucial step to fostering a culture of open dialogue and respect. As we live through a political era that often challenges our fundamental values, it is essential to strengthen the founda- tions upon which these values are built. This process can only occur when we challenge our views and acknowledge the existence of others.