Full Staff Opinion
If you weren’t actually at Common Hour on Thursday, chances are you heard about it. This past week, the lecture series featured Steve Almond, author, essayist, and contributor to publications like The New York Times and NPR. His talk centered around the main subject matter of his book, Against Football: A Reluctant Manifesto. His work– and likewise, talk– centered on the structural woes and worries of how the National Football League treats and sells its players. As its title alone may indicate, Almond’s talk would be all but destined for controversy.
And boy, did controversy come. It arrived in the form of a student in the Question and Answer period. The student had typed up some (it bears mentioning, fiery) remarks and used (it bears mentioning, quite a bit of) time to say how angry he was to have a speaker brought to F&M who would speak out against a group on campus. The student said F&M would never bring a speaker to talk against a race or a religion. Are we not inclusive? This student had had a terrific experience in F&M’s football program, and what Almond said did not fit his experience at all. Almond began to try a response, but the student would not cede the floor.
We bring all of this up for an important reason. Almond’s talk and this student’s reaction seem almost ripe to be framed in the ongoing “coddled college student” narrative. In a way, this student’s reaction could inadvertently encapsulate that mythic college kid: this guy is preaching something I disagree with! Burn it with fire! No, we are not all like that. But at this Common Hour, it was sort of hard to keep our intellectual street cred.
There is hate speech out there, true enough. There are groups and statements and words and names wholly worth offense and opposition (read: Donald Trump). But critiquing the National Football League, pointing out hurtful systems and unquestioned narratives, really does not fall within that designation. Hate speech has no place on this campus, and no one would ever say it did. But critical thinking surely belongs here. Poking holes in logic and structure belong here. And that’s all Almond really sought to do.
It should go without saying that we go here to learn. Right? We go here to have the things we think challenged. We don’t go here to have all that we “know” reaffirmed. When someone has an opinion different than yours, it’s your job to listen to that opinion. It’s your job to take what that person says and see how it jives with what you yourself hold true. We really are not coddled college students, for the most part. So, let’s start acting like it. When someone disagrees with you, don’t type up your response before they even speak.