On this campus, we take pride in our ethnic diversity. As a current GC Admissions Counselor, I am proud to say that our office is dedicated not only to recruiting diverse students, but also to communicating and emphasizing this to all of our prospective students. In communicating this as part of the foundation of our community, we continue to attract students who are as excited about this as we are!
What I’d like to discuss today has nothing to do with our ethnic diversity; it has everything to do with our political diversity on this campus — something that has seemed to be widely ignored until this highly divisive, fear-wrought election. My thoughts below reflect my experience as both a student at GC and as a current staff member:
As a student, I remember hearing my Conservative friends say that they are not comfortable speaking out about their beliefs. My experience in the classroom holds true to this reality, too; it was rare to hear a conservative perspective in many of my classes. From hearing their frustrations, I noticed the feeling of being silenced by the Liberal majority. In many cases, these frustrations turned into anger, bitterness, and resentment.
As a student, I also saw some of the horribly mean ways that our Liberal students responded to the occasional Conservative or minority voices that would speak up. The response usually involved rash, angry words that had every intention of shunning that particular student from our community. Often these conversations happened on various social media platforms, both parties avoiding face-to-face discussions.
These encounters failed to practice our Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies traditions that are so fundamental to our community’s values. They lacked the desire to understand the Other. Instigation and/or retaliation occurred from both sides; but often, it was the comments made by Liberal students, no matter how disrespectful or cruel, that went largely uncontested by the student body.
For a campus community that advocates for the safety and dignity of all of our members, this is one-sided and unfair. Not only that, but we also miss out on an incredible opportunity to engage and learn from each other. Let me be clear that I am not advocating for anyone to voice hate speech, racism, sexism, misogyny, or xenophobia. There need to be boundaries and clear rules of respect, honor, and dignity.
However, this campus has not yet mastered how to embrace different political perspectives and experiences, in and outside of the classroom. When only one side of the story can be told and heard, we do a huge disservice to members on both sides. The Conservative Right is disserviced by being silenced; the Liberal majority is disserviced by not learning how to engage in differing perspectives and is then surprised, upon graduating, to find that the world outside of the “Goshen College Bubble” is so much different than our unique campus community.
Part of my job is to travel to different communities, from Ohio all the way to the East Coast, to recruit and connect with high school students. I, along with many other GC graduates, have experienced this “bubble bursting” reality.
To the Liberal majority on campus: upon graduating, you may find yourselves in a community where you are no longer in the majority. And you may have to experience a similar “reorientation,” as you navigate how to relate to others where you, your beliefs, and experiences are now the minority. Let that sink in for a moment.
This election has given us a special opportunity: a chance to reorient ourselves and find new ways to connect with one another — despite our differences in beliefs, experiences, skin color, sexual orientation, religion, gender, etc.
I’d like to especially acknowledge all of the athletes on our campus who must do this every day that they step onto the field, court, or track with their teammates. When each team member is dedicated to the goals and success of the team, the focus is no longer about the differences held amongst teammates. It becomes about each of the strengths and gifts that each team member brings to the team as a whole.
To all members of this campus that identify in some way as Conservative: your voice, your presence, and your experiences matter, and you have a place here in this community. To all members of this campus that identify in some way as Liberal: your voice, your presence, and your experiences matter, and you have a place here in this community. To all members that find themselves somewhere in between: your voice, your presence, and your experiences matter, and you have a place here in this community
No matter where you stand, we are all a part of this community. We don’t all have to agree, but we do owe each other the honor of The Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is not a new concept: in these particularly divisive times that we find ourselves in, we may need to learn or re-learn how to engage each other respectfully and with dignity for all. And when that seems daunting or scary or seemingly impossible, then we must find ways to connect beyond our differences. In those moments, we must remember how much we actually do have in common. We are all a part of the human race.