I prepare for class discussion. I walk into the classroom. I take out my notebook.
Before the start of the class, I read over “my opinions.” These opinions I know a lot of my classmates will agree with.
Throughout my time in high school, I loved to debate. Whether it was during a class with my teacher or with one of my friends — if I was passionate about something and someone else was too, we would engage.
It wasn’t because I loved to argue with other people. It was simply because I loved to learn.
I loved to learn about other people’s religions, backgrounds, beliefs, races, ethnicities and their social and political views. I wanted to understand why someone believed in a particular view and why they thought it was just.
I couldn’t wait to go to college for that exact reason.
But, I soon learned that there would be no debating different viewpoints at Lehigh.
Often, I am afraid to even open my mouth.
College is a place to expand your horizons and learn all different kinds of perspectives, yet students are continually put into boxes to appease other people. Students personally judge others for having a different opinion.
This limits the enrichment of our learning environment in class, and during the day-to-day interactions with other individuals on campus.
Opinions are viewpoints. Not an identity.
When someone says they are in favor of a big-budget military, it doesn’t mean that they are a “redneck.” And just because someone is pro-choice doesn’t mean that they do not believe in a god.
Yes, these issues are rooted in the divide of our nation, but if we don’t talk about them openly, aren’t we furthering this partition?
In a Gallup study, about 54 percent of college students said “the climate on campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.”
Though this statistic may not be specific to Lehigh, it shows there is a possibility that the majority of students at Lehigh could feel this way. After all, Lehigh is a university.
I am not saying every opinion won’t be offensive. There are definitely individuals and different viewpoints that are offensive. On this campus, I have even seen students support hate speech.
What I am saying is there is a limited exchange of opinions on controversies at Lehigh throughout our time here. Many students on campus feel that if they do speak, they will be judged. They are afraid they will offend somebody.
While you may disagree with somebody, that doesn’t mean that they are a “bigot,” “libtard,” “stupid,” “racist” or a “feminazi.”
Last year, a friend of mine came back from a class visibly distraught. She said that her professor declared “anyone who votes for Donald Trump is stupid.” Whether that professor was provoking discussion or making a statement about his views, she told me not one person spoke up.
I expected people would speak up when they heard such a controversial statement. But then I realized I would do the same, I would stay silent.
Time and time again, we are encouraged to speak up and “exchange” our perspectives on issues.
If anything, this past election has reflected that this principle is fallacious.
I have self-reflected and discovered when I am in a class where I knew the professor and most students were Republican, I would only say things that supported their beliefs in our discussion. If I were in a class where the professor and most students were Democrats, I would do the same thing.
I realized I have never said something in a class that reflects what I believe in. And I think a lot of students can say the same thing.
I want to be able to walk into a class and have a civil disagreement with somebody, but I have not done this once since I have been at Lehigh.
As students, we need to stop being so afraid of conflict, because conflict is the basis of a resolution. And over the course of my two years at Lehigh, I have realized even I am afraid of conflict.
But this needs to change. We need to change.
We were a country founded on the first amendment, the freedom of speech. But recently, it seems as though speech needs to be freed.
Madison Hite, ’20, is an associate sports editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]