Letters to the Editor, Opinions

Letter: SPEAK report ignores lived experiences of politics

By
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

To the Editor:

I appreciate the concise and valuable data that SPEAK has compiled about discourse on campus, explained in The Herald’s March 5 article “Study finds most hosted speakers lean left politically.” However, I don’t think this committee has sufficiently explained what exactly they want conservative voices to provide.

We know that the right today includes anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, oil-funded climate change denial, hypocritical statements on sexual harassment and a refusal to consider systemic racism in the United States. SPEAK is probably not interested in discourses that would directly target students since they asserted against inviting agitators, like Ann Coulter or Steve Bannon, who simply seek to insult and inflame.

Nevertheless, many of these views are not just fringe opinions but common talking points that contribute to the mainstream, right-leaning dialogue. In other words, in 2018 conservatism has collapsed into Trumpism — the same Trumpism that actively threatens Brown’s most vulnerable community members. SPEAK could have made an effort to explain how they defined conservatism, especially in relation to Trumpism.

I’m especially stunned that Sean Spicer — a man who in the early days of the Trump administration so willingly lied to the country —  is on the chart of suggested speakers published in SPEAK’s report without comment. If universities are marketplaces of ideas, SPEAK could have used the space to reflect on the responsibility of universities to remember and frame those complicit in bad faith authoritarianism.

Without these annotations, the SPEAK report functionally turns the lived experience of politics into a checklist. A checklist I’m not convinced many students will follow.

Joseph DiZoglio ’15 MD’20

  • Man with Axe

    The writer asserts: “We know that the right today includes anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, oil-funded climate change denial, hypocritical statements on sexual harassment and a refusal to consider systemic racism in the United States…[M]any of these views are not just fringe opinions but common talking points that contribute to the mainstream, right-leaning dialogue…”

    Two can play this game.

    We know that the left today includes anti-semitic rants against Israel and Jews, pro-communist and anti-capitalist calls for the abolition of private property, assertions that white people are all racists and that whiteness is evil, assertions that masculinity is responsible for most of the violence in our society, the belief that anyone who claims to be a woman is in fact a woman, the claim that free speech should only be allowed for people who agree with the progressive agenda, and that the United States is the worst nation that has ever existed.

    If that’s what the left believes, why is any leftist speaker allowed on campus?

  • Greer Brigham ’20

    SPEAK, Brown’s Coalition for Ideologically Diverse Speakers, would like to thank Joseph DiZoglio ‘15 MD ‘20 for articulating his concerns in his recent Letter to the Editor. While we seek input and feedback (like what he has provided) regarding whom to invite and how to do so conscientiously, we strongly believe that a conversation regarding the important issues of the day does needs to happen. We would first like to clarify that not all individuals who fall right of center are racists or climate change deniers. Many on the right want to solve pressing issues that Brown students care about like affordable healthcare, criminal justice reform, climate change, and creating a more effective social safety net. These individuals do, however, offer different solutions and approaches to the issue than is traditionally heard at Brown. Moreover, large swaths of the country hold conservative views; Republicans currently hold the Presidency, the Senate, the House, and the majority of state governments. If we want to be changemakers now and into the future, we must understand these views.

    We understand and share the critique of “checklisting” points-of-view for the sake of ideological diversity, and not for the actual pertinence of the issues. Our aim is to facilitate the invitation of speakers who would add a new perspective to pertinent and/or new topics of discourse, avoiding redundancy. Further, ideological diversity goes beyond “liberal” and “conservative” – we also believe students should be exposed to perspectives that are libertarian, centrist, classically liberal, and even social Democratic.

    As DiZoglio mentioned, our goal is not to be offensive. We want to create a space for discourse, while being highly conscious about keeping our peers safe. We wish not to make decisions in a vacuum, but rather through community feedback, which is why our plan for the rest of the year is to gain as much input as possible regarding whom to invite and how to do so. Thank you for starting what we hope will be an ongoing conversation among the Brown community.

    — SPEAK Coalition