July 24, 2015

'Freshman Orientation: Conform or Be Cast Out'


I commend to your attention this essay by Alec Dent, an intelligent and sensible young man who is about to begin his freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He writes about his recent experience attending freshman "orientation."
[W]e were treated to an interactive theater experience focused on diversity and inclusiveness. The actors performed four skits, each addressing a cardinal sin of the liberal perspective—racism, sexism, heterosexism, and class politics. ... Instead of showing that all people are equally deserving of human dignity, the theater group created its own caricatures: the “villains” in each of the skits were either white, male, heterosexual, middle class, or some combination of the four. 
It went downhill from there, Dent says.
One of my fellow students stood up and questioned how affirmative action is not inherently discriminatory. This student was a white male, and he shared his view (in an allegedly open forum) that it seemed wrong for race and gender to be a factor in college acceptance. What would it mean if, after all his hard work, he missed an opportunity because he was a white male?  
His question was beyond the pale. The room gave a collective gasp and started murmuring darkly. The event leaders swiftly shut down the offending student’s line of questioning, evasively answering that affirmative action was very “loose” and the quotas weren’t stringent.

The incident with the student who questioned affirmative action revealed an unspoken campus rule that we never discussed: not everybody has the ability to say when he or she is offended or upset without fear of reprisal, social or otherwise.

In a truly open-minded community, dedicated to our school’s motto lux libertas (Light and Liberty), all people would have this ability to speak their minds. What I learned that day at UNC, however, is that free speech, so fundamental to the academy, is only permitted to those who toe the “progressive” line. This exercise could have looked at our different backgrounds in an effort to cultivate true community, built on respect and politeness. Instead, we were “asked” to accept a perversion of true open-mindedness. Instead of encouraging us to each bring ourselves to the table and explore our differences cordially, we were told that some differences, namely non-“progressive” beliefs, were unacceptable. In order to be accepted, we must make our views uniform.
Is this the sort of "orientation"—on topics such as "sexual identity, religious identity, socioeconomic identity, and ethnic identity"—that the freshmen at the University of Oklahoma are receiving? Inquiring minds want to know.

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