I wish I could have expressed surprise at the Class of 2014's immature reaction to the possibility of hearing conservative opinions at their commencement addresses last month; but my own college experiences taught me otherwise.
I grew up in Eastern North Carolina as one of the only liberals in my high school. As a result, I entered Duke University with the naive assumption that liberals, unlike conservatives, would be open-minded--not just on the issues I cared about, but also in their willingness to listen to other opinions. Within months, I realized just how wrong that expectation was.
While before college I lived in an environment where Democrats were silenced and derided, upon entering college I encountered the exact opposite. Conservatives were shouted down and placed in boxes: at best, they were unintelligent--at worst, they were bigots. This immature attitude, applied to Michael Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy, nearly kept him from delivering Harvard's commencement address last month.
Yet though I identify as liberal, my philosophy on free speech is very different from that of my peers: Debate is good. So no matter how much I dislike stop-and-frisk, I'm not going to stop a proponent of it--who has done many more things throughout his career--from speaking. Because heck, who knows, maybe I'm wrong and Bloomberg is right...the only way I could possibly know is if I sit down to listen to the man speak.
The Class of 2014's attempted censorship of nearly everything they disagree with has troubling implications, for liberalism has no monopoly on truth, and twenty-year-old college students certainly don't either. Universities are increasingly becoming places where "thoughtcrime" is so palpable as to stifle academic dissent. Juxtaposed beside the open and diverse atmosphere these institutions profess to strive for, that is incredibly ironic.
Class of 2014: You may have graduated, but you still need to grow up.
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