Skittles and Elephants: Why We Can’t Conflate Censorship and Criticism

Last week, the Claremont
Independent
published a controversial (read: disappointingly stupid)
article about the distribution of Plan B from a vending machine in the Health
and Wellness room on Pomona’s campus. I’m pretty sure this discussion does not
need the input of another opinionated white dude, but here I go anyway.

I could offer a response that shows why the article was
completely unnecessary, infantilizing toward women and factually misguided (I
blame bad public sex ed—vaginas are confusing, and who would want to research that?). But Claremont is full of smart
people, and I don’t think I need to write about that. 

Instead, I want to use this as a chance to discuss diversity
of political opinions, censorship and tolerance.

This comes at an apt time. About a month ago, CMC Professor Emeritus Ward
Elliott released the findings of a 40-year study that shows that all
the campuses are overwhelmingly liberal, even CMC. This was part of the
inspiration for the Independent’s
most recent cover story claiming censorship by the left. TSL, only a week ago, published an Opinions piece with a
similar tone, “Ostracized Others: A Red Voice from a Blue Bubble.” 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. On one hand, I
love free speech, and I love controversial opinions. Even though I don’t agree
with much of what the Independent writes,
I think it has an important place in our campus dialogue. I commend students
for expressing unpopular opinions. I appreciate having conservative professors.
I think the campus right may have a point: Sometimes we don’t even consider
legitimate conservative opinions.

On the other hand, what the Independent published was absurd. It was offensive, aggressive and overly intimate life advice for college women, coming from a 19-year-old dude.

This piece was the worst in recent memory, but it’s not the
only concerning view. I looked back at some of the latest opinions published on
the Independent’s website. There’s
the initial “You Want Some Plan B with Those Skittles?” as well as a clever internal response invoking a free-market justification for the
vending machine. There’s also a piece defending George Will’s
insensitive comments about sexual assault victims. After that is an article griping about CMC’s focus on personal responsibility in the social sphere—in which the author makes some cringe-worthy comments about the late Ali Mirza.

I don’t want to single out
the Independent—some of the
conservative opinions in this publication, namely about Israel, seem downright preposterous
to most readers.

Taken as a whole, this trend does not represent well-reasoned, conservative responses to campus
issues. What Claremont’s campus right is espousing are contrarian musings at best, offensive diatribes at worst—and negative responses to these pieces do not qualify as censorship.

It is important to note that I don’t mean to bash on all college
conservatives. In fact, I’m politically very moderate; I might even agree with them on a few issues. However, it’s very
hard to come out and say that when the same minority of students—who are complaining that the conservative side is not being taken seriously—is
publishing opinions that suggest college women can’t make decisions for
themselves. We should celebrate a diversity
of opinion, but that doesn’t mean we have to tolerate any opinion. It’s 2014. Some beliefs are unpopular, and some are
completely untenable.

This dialogue mirrors an important culture-shift within the
greater American political right. Throughout our formative years, we’ve seen
ignorant, paunchy old white folks in the GOP defend hateful social policy. But in the process they lost a generation of young
voters. Conservative principles still
exist, but they are overshadowed by more hateful, racist and sexist factions
of the political right. 

Sexual assault is not a partisan issue. There’s no
conservative basis for defending the perpetrators or their sympathizers.
Defending your right to get trashed on the weekends without consequence has
nothing to do with ideology. Telling college women where they can and cannot
receive necessary medical supplies might make you an enthusiastic Republican,
but it disqualifies you from being taken seriously at any elite college.

So my message to Claremont’s conservatives is this: There’s
a lot you can contribute to campus discussions without being petty or
offensive. You could write about how Pomona should sponsor an ROTC program, or
how 5C admissions policies toward Asian Americans are un-meritocratic, or how
hookup culture is especially confusing to religious students. I could go on. But whatever you write or say, make it
meaningful and reasoned. We would all benefit from heeding the call in the Independent to “kindle meaningful discussion by introducing less commonly held views on a
variety of campus issues.”

Sam Pitcavage CM ’15 is a government and economics major from Beaverton, Ore.

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