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The Blue & Gray Press | December 11, 2017

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Letter: University standards should promote open minds and meaningful dialogue

Letter: University standards should promote open minds and meaningful dialogue

GK Chesterton, the prolific journalist of the early 20th century, said, “Having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” At the University of Mary Washington, we have closed our mouths and are close-minded. That would seem like the exact opposite of what this campus is known for.

On this campus, have any of us closed our minds to anything and bitten on a tenant that that is not in accord with the truth? Have you ever heard “you do you” or “that is just the culture” and we do not question any following actions. This mentality creates the problems that we have seen unfold over the past few months. Example one being what Paige McKinsey wrote about in her op-ed and the backlash she and her board received while working to make women feel safer on this campus. What they are experiencing is a close-mindedness shown through unchecked conduct and improper thought. Word from your mother: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.” The Westboro Baptist Church breaks this rule but at least are able to admit ownership, which is more than Yik Yak can say.

We are all searching for the good, the true and the beautiful. To each of our actions, we need to question: do these bring about the good, the true and the beautiful? We all know anonymous hate-speech is not in pursuit of these, yet it still happens. We can be the good Samaritans of the UMW community through micro-social activism of making sure your friends are actively pursuing the good, the true and the beautiful.

If I have a question, I ask. As a student on campus I have found that the simplest way to advance my understanding of any academic or social topic is to express my feelings about it in a conversation with someone, rather than to cowardly publish anonymous statements where there will only be hurt feelings and no follow up. As president of the Students for Life club on campus, I have had many experiences with individuals where we had a delightful conversation, where they did not expect me to be as open to the dialogue while talking to them about the topic of abortion. Every conversation where the person has been open to at least a civil conversation has been enlightening for me to the human experience. Is this because I am polite, rarely late and enjoy ice cream or a good pair of slacks? Or is it because we were both willing to calmly discuss the issues surrounding the topic and form a consensus? That consensus could even be to agree to disagree, but we have both learned from it. Each person walking away from that conversation, whether they realized it or not, have an understanding that to disagree is not to hate. I disagree with abortion, but I could never hate those involved.

According to the response to our latest display, UMW is a (circle one: pro-life/ anti-abortion/ anti-choice) campus. We were asking each person that was walking along Campus Walk outside of Lee Hall to come and vote on the question of “When do human rights begin?” Pretty obviously, the sampling was skewed. I say we are a close-minded campus where each person operates in their own bubble and refuses to hear other ideas. (If you disagree, don’t Yak about it. Here is an open invitation to discuss it with me. I would be happy to talk). They have bitten in on their truth and closed their mouth, and worst of all, are afraid of a conversation. We have the “freedom of inquiry,” according to the UMW mission statement, but do not explore. As a community, we need to responsibly work toward the Mission Statement of the university, which is to have an environment hospitable for the “creation and exploration of knowledge.” The best way we can do this as a community is to be open to a dialogue where we are all rooted in our communal search for the good, the true and the beautiful.

Robby Renner is a junior at the University of Mary Washington and a member of the UMW Students for Life.