[Editor’s note: this letter to the editor was updated Feb. 19]
VCU is a diverse, innovative and unique university — those attributes cannot be denied. We openly claim to support diversity in all regards: race, religion and ideologies. These claims can be found in the university’s mission statement; for example, one tenet in our list of core values is “freedom.” Our description of that freedom is, “striving for intellectual truth with responsibility and civility, respecting the dignity of all individuals.” These are powerful words which should not be overlooked.
Frankly, I feel VCU and other universities across the U.S. are failing their students in upholding the values they promote. As a political science student, I noticed that an open and honest debate was lacking as there is an unspoken rule: debate, but stay within the invisible confines of what is accepted within these walls. I think many professors feel the same way and would speak up if they didn’t fear for their reputation. We need a revival of respectful civil discourse. The majority of Americans are disgusted by the continued divisiveness coming from both sides of the aisle. However, by each of us taking a look in the mirror, we can overcome this. Are we truly inclusive?
Conservative philosophy is lacking on college campuses. This is irrefutable. How can truth be found if we are not willing to challenge our beliefs? We cannot produce the next generation of great thinkers if all that we have regarded as truth has gone unchallenged.
Here is my first proposal: Force students to debate topics in an Oxford format in classes that require political discussion. The aim should be to operate in logic and truth instead of resorting to emotion. Students would become better communicators, more informed citizens, and more inclusive as a result.
My second and final proposition: Invite Ben Shapiro on campus to have a Q&A session with attendees. I think the administration should support his presence for the sake of idealistic diversity.
I hope we will advance VCU’s quality as an institution by being honest with ourselves and recognizing we can improve the intellectual experience of current and future students by letting all viewpoints be heard.
This post would be framed toward conservatives if their political philosophy dominated college campuses — that is not the case, which is why this is a call to action for level-headed, truth-seeking and truly inclusive liberals.
– Hunter Simms, VCU Alumnus, 2017