Editorial | Opportunity amid justified anger, controversy
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 02:10
Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke on the Hill for the 17th annual Richard E. Snyder President's Lecture Series. His lecture, "Interpreting the Constitution," drew over one thousand members of the Tufts community. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Scalia is the longest-serving sitting member of the court, and his originalist interpretation of the Constitution has been influential in many controversial decisions in cases related to marriage equality, gay rights, abortion and affirmative action. Consequently, the selection of Scalia as this year's speaker was not without backlash among members of the Tufts community.
Scalia's opinions and dissents have discriminated against and marginalized minority groups, many of which are represented here on campus. We acknowledge that his fundamental ideas on how the Constitution should be interpreted, the opinions that he has written and even statements that he made in his lecture yesterday may continue to affect or hurt members of the Tufts community, as they have in the past. Students are understandably and rightly upset by his opinions and decisions. We do not agree with his stances on the aforementioned issues, among others. Confusion or resentment toward the selection of Scalia to speak is valid, and with that comes the right to protest or not attend the lecture.
This lecture series in general, endowed by Snyder (A '55), was designed to foster intellectual curiosity by presenting speakers with provocative opinions. University President Anthony Monaco told the Daily in September that the lecture aims to invite experts who have challenged mainstream, orthodox views and can therefore engage the community in a dialogue.
Yet there is an inherent issue with the series if the university is choosing a figure like Scalia, who has been controversial in a way that directly hurts members of the community.
That said, by bringing Scalia to speak, the university is not aligning itself with his beliefs. Rather, it is providing the opportunity for students and faculty to hear an opinion that may not be widely agreed with, at least on the Hill, but is certainly prevalent in the world beyond Tufts' gates. Though his opinions cannot be overlooked, Scalia is a sitting judge in the Supreme Court. He is a tremendously influential figure in our nation and can speak with authority on how this country's justice system works, theoretically and practically. Scalia's talk could therefore be a productive one by providing students and faculty with a first-hand look into this branch of our democratic government.
Though the lecture is intended to provide a forum for a campus dialogue, there was very little opportunity to do so beyond a question and answer session with Scalia at the lecture's close. In the coming weeks, and in future years, it would be helpful and productive for the university to sponsor events in which students can more thoroughly voice their opinions and react to the content of the lecture.