Op-eds, Opinions

Miller’11 MD’18: Don’t create a mold for Brown students

By
Op-Ed Contributor
Thursday, April 12, 2018

As a member of the Brown community for the past 11 years, I have come to treasure and expect the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives that we find on our campus. It’s one of the reasons why I came back after taking time off as an undergraduate and why I again came back to Brown as a medical student. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned here is to not assume that I truly, or even partially, understand someone else’s point of view. As the son of two parents who I would describe as liberal in every sense of the word (politically, socially, religiously, etc.) and the product of a community with similar leanings, I didn’t knowingly engage with a self-identified conservative or Republican until the latter half of my time in college. Contrary to my expectations, I found that we shared a great deal of common ground. We loved our families and considered them in almost every personal decision that we made. We saw the chance to pursue higher education as one of the most valuable opportunities in a young person’s life and wanted to find ways to extend this privilege to as many others as possible. And perhaps most importantly, we both wanted to find happiness in our lives and to help others to do the same.

While I may share many of the political views described by Michael Froid ’21 in his piece, “Inviting Jeb Bush to speak is irresponsible,” I have a hard time with his reference to “policies that do not, and should not, represent the values of Brown students.” I do not believe that there are politics, positions or perspectives that define our entire student body, nor should there be. In fact, I think that diversity in these areas is what makes our campus, and ultimately our country, unique.

Much of my growth at Brown as a college student, a soon-to-be physician and a human being has come from having conversations with and being pushed by other students and people who see the world differently from than I do. I have learned to listen to activists explain why they think abortion is unjust and immoral, and I have learned to care for patients even when they express bigotry. Each of these moments was different and uncomfortable in its own way. I have found that these encounters often arise when you least expect them, which makes them that much more difficult and sometimes even painful when they seem to target us directly. At the same time, I am grateful that I’ve gotten to cross paths with these people and that they weren’t denied a place at Brown, in Rhode Island or in the United States because of how they voted or what they thought. I am grateful that each of these people pushed me to consider different perspectives, even when I disagreed with them.

I speak solely for myself here — I think that as students, we need to be pushed and to be challenged. Some of our most valuable learning comes from times when we are made to feel uncomfortable. I think that finding respect for and common ground with someone who might seem to be our complete opposite is a skill that we all could and should practice. I am grateful that we at Brown have no prerequisites for political leanings or for the values that we hold dear. The freedoms to respectfully share and speak your thoughts are parts of this community that I will always value. I believe that if we try to create a mold into which all Brown students must fit, we will risk losing them.

Samuel Miller ’11 MD’18 can be reached at samuel_miller@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

2 Comments

  1. Man with Axe says:

    Well said. Students don’t enter college already familiar with all the arguments and values that are possible to make and hold. They really do need intellectual diversity more than any other kind.

  2. Lisa Rothstein says:

    Thank goodness someone here is saying this. I attended Brown in the 1980s at the beginning of what became known as Political Correctness, when at the time it was regarded as a good thing. Now it is a muzzle and a cudgel against the healthy exchange of views you describe here. And just in case a real debate should accidentally break out, or a speaker invited who doesn’t preach to the prevailing choir, there are “safe spaces” now for those who cannot bear to be disagreed with. I weep for my alma mater and for the students unlucky enough to be attending at this time. I only hope the pendulum swings back to center one day. Lisa Rothstein ’82

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