Op-ed | A humble suggestion
Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 08:12
It is a melancholy object to those who walk across this great campus when they are assailed by the insensitive and hurtful utterances of their peers, all of whom are numb to the power of a phrase. Students like me, instead of feeling protected and welcome at Tufts, are forced to employ all too much energy in actively ignoring such incidences or educating violators in the error of their ignorance of polite, deep-rooted social behaviors. This naturally evokes verbal defensiveness on the part of the perpetrator and accomplishes little when one accounts for the vast number of miscreants compared to upright, socially correct citizens such as myself.
A prime example of an incident such as this comes directly from my experiences on this campus. The other day on the Joey, I overheard someone say, to who I can safely presume was his or her close friend, “You don’t like shopping? What are you, straight?” As a heterosexual woman who enjoys shopping very much, this deeply hurt me. The accusatory tone used by the perpetrator clearly indicated their disdain for all straight individuals, which I can only assume cut to the hearts of many fellow heterosexuals within earshot at the time. This kind of blatant rejection of a sexuality I didn’t choose cannot be tolerated — especially here at Tufts.
My fellow students, communities with thoughts as intolerant and aggressive as the Tufts campus have perpetrated the worst atrocities humanity ever saw. More than just a slippery slope, we are launching headfirst down a genocidal slip-and-slide. The Tufts administration is itself guilty of these charges. Our first-year tuition, if not tuition from all four years, supports the dining centers on campus, all of which serve meat; my hard-earned money is going to support the murder culture of the meat industry. Most students choose to overlook this seemingly minor infraction on our belief systems against murder, but if we do not stand up against oppression — if we choose to continue to passively accept the blatant disrespect of those around us — who knows what other personal convictions our peers may be tempted to violate. Today, a hamburger. Tomorrow, the cannibalism of Irish infants.
I propose, as a way to avoid the discussion of sensitive topics that may endorse such horrific violations against any student in our commonality, that each student be required to complete a one-year, two-credit course on public decorum. Surely, if Tufts required such a course, members of the community would be better educated on how to conduct themselves in a reasonable fashion so as never to offend anybody in their life, and potential wrongdoers may be elevated to a higher plane of social acceptability prior to committing egregious violations of political correctness.
I do therefore humbly offer up to public consideration a solution to the enormous problem of incessant, malicious insults against all members of the community. Tufts shall install a complete list of conversation topics that are deemed appropriate for public discussion, which would, of course, exclude race, gender, religion and sexuality. Such a document may further dictate the rules of civil discourse, consequently shunning the usage of opprobrious debate. An example of such a standard may be that students be required to engage only in polite body language, including maintaining direct eye contact at all times, for no one would want wandering eyes for fear of being judged by peers. It would perhaps be expected that all individuals maintain feet facing no more than 12 degrees — as a summation from both feet — away from their partner, thereby solidifying apparent interest in the conversation, so as no person may be offended by a perceived lack of attention. Similarly, it may be compulsory that participants in conversation speak exactly 109 words per minute, to allow ample time for auditory processing while maintaining a considerate pace, and indicating the value of the time of the conversational partner. Such staunch politeness will undoubtedly ensure that no comrade will encounter a state of exasperation, and no would-be offender be unintentionally provoked. Properly enforced, a policy such as this could only lead to an agreeable and nescient populace.
Naturally, a petition process may be instated by which a panel of student and administrative representatives would review requested topics for specific places and times. After all, we are a country founded on free speech, and for anyone to feel lacking in the freedom to express themselves publicly is not what I request. I merely wish to no longer be subject to offense against my person on this campus. I believe freedom of speech does not include freedom to offend. Benjamin Franklin — perhaps the most esteemed and influential proponent of free speech in American history — said himself, “If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little [offense taken by anyone and privileged college students would all be much happier and not ignorant of the real world at all].” The kind of language I experience here should not be what I am subjected to when I walk down the streets of an outside city; this place should be a safe haven, where anything that hurts me is disallowed. After all, aren’t I entitled to the complete respect and agreement of my peers?
Carolyn Saund is a sophomore majoring in computer science and cognitive and brain sciences. She can be reached at Carolyn.Saund@tufts.edu.