By Ulrich Faircloth
In this past week, there has been a great clamor concerning the subversive tactics displayed by a group of students known as the “Concerned Students for Policy Change (CSPC).” The intention of the group was to instill some verbal shock treatment into the student body so everyone would be cognizant of an issue that supposedly haunts our campus. Both disdain and interest are circulating, and people are talking. There is also discussion and a desire for a mandatory hate speech policy to be implemented. In this article I will make an effort to deconstruct the rationale that members of CSPC and their allies have with regard to the atmosphere of discrimination that they claim exists.
Designing policy to control behavior and opinions will not change anything, especially at a culturally homogenous and small liberal arts college. What we need instead is some restorative justice in resolving individual issues through an informal process. I can understand that the proposed hate speech policy’s purpose is “to set standards of race and diversity tolerance.” (“Purpose of Hate Speech,” The Round Table, April 8) But should students not already hold themselves to said standards out of common courtesy and being a respectful adult citizen? I find it rather pointless to emphasize on tolerance for this very fact.
If this is an actual social problem on campus, rather than a few isolated incidents, then please give some numbers. How many people are being discriminated against? What types of people (racial, religious, political, etc.)? How many incidents? How frequent are they? No matter what issue one looks at, context is everything. One needs to look at a variety of factors in any situation. Regarding the incident that started this whole conversation on discrimination (racial conflict at a party, as described in “Think The N-Word Isn’t Used On Campus? Think Again,” The Round Table, April 8), the social context needs to be framed: who said what, where they said it, and why they said it. The spatial context is important as well. We know that the conflict happened “one month ago,” but were there any current events pertaining to this? The emotional context is by far the most significant: what was the intensity of the incident; how powerful were the conversations? In addition to providing statistics for distribution and frequency, the content of the situation helps to determine what actually happened and why.
I would like to conclude that this is not an institutional problem, as it seems to be generally portrayed. Indeed, this is an interpersonal one, albeit among isolated incidents. “White people” are not the cause of some peoples’ grief—ignorance and stupidity are. Inter-group language and behavior add to this ignorance. Initiating a moral panic by exaggerating a relatively non-existent problem simply creates and perpetuates the potential for discrimination to actually happen. So why should Beloit students care? If we are to care, a legitimate claim needs to be made as to why we should. This includes factual and contextual data.