By Jordan Raitses
I am sure that this is obvious, but we at the Binghamton Review don’t like Students for Change very much. They are a hateful and divisive group that claims to support minority rights, but they do not. They support their own agenda which comprises white-bashing and unfairly attacking and harassing certain administrators to an unacceptable extent.
President Harvey Stenger recently attended a Students for Change event and, after approximately two hours of apologizing for the same (non)problems, he walked out early. While that may not have been the best decision in his position, I also understand why he did it. A man can only take so much blame for a problem he did not create. They claim that the school under-hires and under-admits faculty and students of minority status, and their solution is, essentially, a system of quotas to ensure that minorities are “fairly” represented.
One easily forgets that it isn’t the school’s choice who applies to work and study here; there may be other reasons (economic, geographic, or even simple preference) why certain minorities are underrepresented. According to Students for Change, President Stenger must personally admit more students and professors of minority status to fill the gap. But what if not enough of these minority (read: desirable) students apply and we have to pay them more, or offer more scholarship money to get them to come? This is unfairly preferential treatment.
Of course minorities face racism in this country. This is a fact that no one is contesting. But the solution to institutional racism is not—I repeat, NOT—further institutional racism. Preferential treatment for one group is aggression towards those not receiving it. One can make a fair case for saying that racism exists in the form of white people (especially white cis males, if you prefer) getting jobs more easily in the “real world”. This type of racism is termed institutional because it exists within the institution of society. But that is a misnomer; the institution is not racist, the individuals are.
The correct response to institutional racism is not artificially creating more opportunities for historically underrepresented groups; that is the elementary school response to unfairness. We must give every individual a fair shot to show everyone—the bigots, the racists, and even the racist PR managers—that all people are created equal. Forcing people to base hiring decisions on irrelevant factors only serves to create enmity and fosters ill will. This is not a post-racial society nor will it ever be if we continue along those lines.
Freedom of speech is a right that does not need to be defended; everyone supports freedom of speech—in the abstract. Most people will support freedom of speech; when someone brings forward specific cases, however, holes in that support begin to appear. It’s hard to defend someone’s right to say something when you disagree with them or when you “know they’re wrong.”
Claiming that we need to block some speech is where the problem starts. Students for Change wants to block speech that is offensive. This doesn’t sound like a problem at first, because no one wants to offend anyone else, right? What about when some speech is borderline offensive? If someone went onto the Spine and yelled racist slurs, we’d all agree that it’s a problem that he/she should be stopped. But what about when someone is tabling and says something that you, and only you, find offensive? What about when someone is walking down the hallway and you overhear him/her say something offensive? People shouldn’t be persecuted for their speech when it isn’t actually suggesting violence or creating danger. Simple as that.
While on the subject of freedom, let’s talk about freedom of association and Students for Change’s response: zero tolerance anti-discrimination policies. A person’s right to association is his/her ability to decide with whom they associate; this means that if someone doesn’t want to interact with another person, he/she shouldn’t have to. If Students for Change had its way, we wouldn’t be able to discriminate in our choices—at all. In this situation, we would be unable to refuse anyone any request we grant to others because we would be discriminating against that person. To continue the elementary school analogy, they espouse the classic “don’t bring any cookies, unless you’re willing to share with the whole class.”
Students for Change cares more about shouting down the administration than creating real, lasting change. They interrupt classes and spout factual inaccuracies to rally the students behind them. We, the students who disagree with them, cannot let their pseudo-populism reign over the students’ true opinions. Together, we must stand up for what we believe in and shut down their propaganda and show President Stenger that we do not stand against him.