Put Down Your Pitchforks and Open Your Ears

Stephen Fleury

Staff Writer

To me, one of the most important measures of a college is the extent to which people
can freely discuss controversial issues.  The whole point of a liberal arts education is to
learn how to think freely and openly about the world around us, forming opinions for
ourselves, rather than blindly accepting the viewpoints of the majority or those that claim
a higher intellectual or moral ground.  As I look around at other schools across the
country and here at Holy Cross, I see free speech being stifled by students who
somehow claim to be “open minded” and “free thinking.”  Nowadays, being a free
thinking and open minded individual only seems possible if you subscribe to the
particular ideology that dominates campus discussion. The concept of discussion has
veered from “This is what I think, and here’s why” to “You are wrong, and here’s why.”
I’d like to think that I am not the only one who is tired of the negative tone that has
overtaken any issue that people may disagree on, when discussions quickly turn into
personal attacks on people’s character and morality. It seems like we now have a
binary choice of either not talking about complex issues at all, or engaging in discussion
that ultimately gets reduced to name calling and violence. It’s crazy to think that
colleges have been forced to shut down speakers on campus over security concerns
due to threats and violence directed toward distinguished speakers.  In the same way,
individuals with opinions that differ from popular opinion are often branded as racist,
ignorant, and bigoted.  I would hate to see this school go down a similar path.  Are we
really that thin skinned as a society that we have to silence people just because they
may offend us or disagree with us?  We are a large and diverse country with millions of

people that all hold different opinions based on our own unique perspectives of the
world, however, one of the things that has held us together over the years is our shared
commitment to certain values, including the right to express oneself freely—even if
some may be offended by it.  As this commitment has slowly eroded, it is no surprise
that our bond as a nation has weakened.  As we embark on another year at Holy Cross,
I implore everyone, on all sides, to open their ears and listen to their peers, even if you
disagree with them.  We aren’t paying a premium for this education to merely sit in an
echo chamber and affirm what we already know or believe.  If we start to care more
about finding truth, rather than about protecting what we already believe, we may
actually learn something about ourselves and the world around us.

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