It’s all connected. This is my defense in response to a friend of mine who pointed out that my writings tend to ramble. I’ll start off writing about one topic, and end with a completely different conclusion, sometimes seemingly unrelated. The fact of the matter, however, is that everything relates. Look at the campus around you and pick any two pressing issues and you will find a connection. Problems in life do not spring from nothingness and stand independently; rather, they all interweave in a tangled web so large that we don’t always see how the strands coincide.
Polarization of groups on campus is something which we should all be aware of. Especially in the absence of fraternities, student groups on campus tend to draw inwards and create their own little cliques. Yes, I am sure this is natural, but when the campus is so obviously divided along these lines, one begins to take notice. Members of any given club or team often end up spending all their time with that club or team, and occasionally (if one is given to a little imagination and a spark of insanity) one can almost envision a sort of West Side Massachusetts Story in which the various gangs constantly walk up and down Spring Street. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying spending time in your little group, but it can become excessive.
And then there’s the affirmative action debate. Always a popular perennial issue, the question of affirmative action inevitably brings charges of racism from all sides. We know that in the past certain minorities were discriminated against, so some say it would be racist not to redress these wrongs.
Others say that it is obviously racist to admit people on the basis of their color. So, Williams continues to admit a certain amount of minorities under special consideration, and neither side is generally happy with the result.m Free speech is something vital to the well-being of any college community, although some speeches are less helpful than others.
Sometimes it seems that any opinion that varies from the norm is stifled or ridiculed in the name of political correctness. Other times, such as the recent controversy over the tombstones on Baxter lawn, we need people to think a bit more before speaking, or at least to take responsibility for their words. If one believes that a certain activity is being overdramatized, there are better ways to express that belief.
So how does any of this connect? Well, these are just examples of issues, but I am sure that they connect. Affirmative action is a policy for which one of the main justifications is diversity on campus. Proponents of affirmative action often cite the importance of having a diverse student body so that people of different races and cultures will intermingle.
Yet the polarization ends up destroying this goal. If you’ve looked around the college you’ll realize that the minority groups tend to stick together, and the diverse intermingling doesn’t take place as much as one would hope. Occasionally, one sees people talking to one another, but just as often (if not more so) one finds clumps of black or white students and the separation is as clear as…well…black and white.
And as free speech goes, there are certain positions about affirmative action which cannot be taken without first purchasing some extra life insurance. Voltaire (one of the few good things ever to come out of France) coined the phrase, “I may detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Even in the most extreme case imaginable, one should be free to speak as they wish, as long as they take responsibility for what they say.
As for the other connections, you can make them yourselves. They exist; you just have to think about it. That’s the way life is. A newspaper piece is like life. Sometimes things don’t seem to connect, occasionally you find things that make you laugh, and sometimes it just sucks. But you have to keep thinking and looking around.
Maybe the piece on the facing page will be more interesting than this one, maybe it will raise an important issue, go give it a look. And keep thinking about these issues too. After all, it’s all connected.