How tolerant are we, really?

By Amy Ledig

Where’s this “tolerance” we speak of? So much is made of the Macalester environment, and the willingness, nay, eagerness to hear a broad array of opinions and encourage stimulating, free discourse. I’m now well into my second year here and I have yet to be convinced. We’re not fooling anyone.There are a number of issues on this campus where dissent from the acceptable Macalester-liberal line is suppressed. Looking back on the beginning of this year, the Mellon Fellowship discussion and the drama over the gender-blind bathrooms are the two that come most readily to mind.

There was plenty of debate over the bathrooms, although on second thought, it can’t really be called a debate if only one side feels free to speak. During the controversy, it was essentially only the students who wanted the bathrooms in Kirk to be gender-blind who were heard. Some of the pieces in this section boiled down to the idea that if you were for gendered bathrooms, you were automatically heteronormative, trying to actively oppress those wrestling with gender-identity issues, and a terrible person. Is this really how we have a discussion about important campus issues? With a few exceptions, I only know a couple of individuals who were willing to say anything in favor of the gender-designated bathrooms, and that was only in groups of friends, not in a larger setting.

I was initially surprised that there weren’t more responses submitted to the Opinion section about the “Historians and Critical Race Theory” course. However, race is one of the issues we say we’re open to discussing, and actually aren’t. The student who lodged the complaint about what she felt was a prohibition on white students taking the history course didn’t feel that she could openly discuss a serious issue, despite the supposedly open and inviting atmosphere here.

“The student, a senior, said she did not want to be identified in this article because ‘at a small school like Macalester I don’t want to be the only dissenting voice on a sensitive issue.'” (“History class’ admission questioned on racial grounds,” 10/19/2007).

This reign of terror being imposed on the campus by students and faculty alike is ridiculous. If I were the girl who raised concerns about the Critical Race Theory class, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know who I was either. I was in favor of gender-specific bathrooms in Kirk when I lived there at the beginning of the year, which I think is valid, but I didn’t feel comfortable voicing that to anyone outside my immediate group of friends, because I could foresee the deluge of criticism that would come. I believe that those here working through gender-identity issues should be able to have safe spaces, but I am also a member of the campus community, and I also believe that I should be able to feel safe. The focus should be on providing a third gender-neutral space, not forcing gender-blind on those who might not feel comfortable with it.

All of that, though, is beside the point. We need to either strive toward actually creating an environment where free and open discourse can exist, or we need to accept that if things continue the way they are now, we have become the liberal counterpart to Liberty University and the like. Forcing everyone to stay on the liberal straight-and-narrow path is just as much intellectual censorship and repression as what Conservatives practice.

Amy Ledig ’10 is an Opinion Editor and a Political Science major from Oak Hill, Va. She can be reached at [email protected]