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Commentary Opinion

Drake’s “Open Discourse” Ain’t so Open

It’s time to address the elephant on this campus— or should I say, the way “the elephant” gets treated on this campus.

(Fear not, that was a hilarious joke you will understand in a second.)

But in all seriousness…

I think it’s time to address the obvious double standards in the way liberal and conservative ideals are regarded by select administration and faculty at Drake University – especially since this treatment results in a surprising amount of blatant discrimination toward right-winged individuals in their classes and general campus experience. 

Now before you write me off as some cog in a Turning Point USA conspiracy, I ask you to hear me out. I feel that it is important to start this article by making you aware of my location on the political spectrum.

I am an independent in every sense of the word. I have a variety of strong opinions that could classify me under either party, and I assure you, my dot has landed almost perfectly in the center of every typology/spectrum quiz I have ever taken.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely identify as a “political” person – a “raging independent,” if you will. It’s because I’m so interested in politics, but don’t identify with either party, that I think I’m able to form a relatively unbiased opinion on Drake’s general political climate.

And, although I feel no personal loyalty to the Republican party, I can’t help but feel sympathy for some of the ridicule that conservative students must tolerate on Drake’s campus.

For example – one of my peers is a sophomore at Drake, and two of their parents are police officers. One day, their professor launched into a lecture about the importance of supporting “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bad), telling the class that TV shows portraying cops as good people are simply “propaganda tactics” employed by the corrupted mass of cops.

Although such a statement is an opinion anyone is entitled to have, it is not a fact that everyone should reasonably be expected to conform to. And sure, the floor was technically “open” for discussion on the issue, right? One could argue my peer should’ve just raised their hand and defended their parents’ profession. 

Except, my peer said they had already witnessed the same professor berate a different classmate one week earlier just for asking a clarifying question, so they decided it “wasn’t safe” for them to speak up.

Take another peer, who was told by her FYS professor that being pro-life excluded her from being a feminist.

Once again, although this is an opinion many people hold on a personal level, the truth is that anyone who “defends and advocates for women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes” is, by definition, a feminist. The feminist movement isn’t something that can be gatekept by women who hold a more liberal worldview. 

At least, it is not for anyone – not even Susan B. Anthony herself – to act as if they hold the authority to revoke a young woman’s feminism-movement-membership card, let alone on the basis of one opinion about one topic.

If incidents like these were few and far between, something that only happened from time to time when professors accidentally got too impassioned in the classroom, we’d be having an entirely different conversation.

However, these students and several others whom I interviewed for this article have identified that these types of hostile situations happen all the time. 

What’s worse, most students say these situations are typically either encouraged or flat-out started by a member of Drake faculty.

If Drake is a school that truly champions diversity, equity and inclusivity, I think we ought to be treating EVERYONE’S opinions with respect – no more of these blatant double standards, where only some groups deserve “safe” and “open” environments to discuss and debate, but other groups deserve to be ridiculed and outright threatened for their convictions.

For instance, several members of the Drake community still champion a professor that publicly declared hatred toward Republicans online. Would we still find that hatred inspiring if it had been directed toward any other group of people?

I can understand how, if I discovered that my professor would want me to “suffer” if they ever found out my true beliefs, I too would be uncomfortable sharing my honest opinions in class – no matter how profusely they tried to promise afterwards that their opinions did not affect their role as an educator.

Another example: we don’t even flinch when our professors make claims such as, “All Republicans are evil,” which fosters an unfair and overgeneralized stereotype. Why are those comments regarded as praiseworthy by a very generation of people dedicated to defying society’s orthodox labels?

Once again, I can understand how having to sit and listen to someone tell you that you’re evil when they don’t know anything about you makes it hard to show up to their class and respectfully listen to their perspective and life experiences.

My point here is not to say that differences in opinion between faculty and students are bad. In fact, there are many people out there (like me) who love debate in the classroom with professors who are capable of facilitating it in a respectful way. 

I also want to make it clear that this article is not any kind of attack on liberals or liberal ideologies themselves. As I stated previously, I myself hold several liberal opinions and I’d be shooting myself in the foot to be taking an “ALAB” stance.

(Get it? All liberals are bad? … Bad joke, nevermind.)

All I am saying is, (for the most part) we are all human beings just trying to do the right thing. No one holds the opinions they hold because they want to do the wrong thing, and I find it sad and unfair that students who identify as conservative on this campus are being treated like criminals for doing their best to be good people.

Although we can all think of someone we personally find to be ignorant in some way or another, it is important to remember that we are relatively ignorant to the life experiences which lead other people to believe what they believe. 

That being said, it is not for anyone – Drake faculty included – to decide that certain groups of people are “wrong” and deserve to be shut down in an environment that is literally designed to help people question, learn and grow.

It is my hope that, as Drake grows in our understanding of DEI and how to best promote it, we can challenge our friends and faculty to reject ANY and ALL hate and hostility we encounter – especially when it’s directed at the ideologies we disagree with the most.

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