Being a first-year, one thing seems rather apparent to me about the student body here at Williams: We tend to be too politically correct and not willing to give actual opinions on things. Beside the pomp and circumstance and superfluous nature of social conventions on this campus, we need to face the facts: We are a conglomeration of diverse people. We will have diverse opinions, and it’s important that those opinions are allowed due respect. Done are the days of censorship. Instead, voice your inner radical self that has been unjustly suppressed at this college. Williams needs to hear what you have to say.
If one thing is clear about basic social interaction, it’s that people thrive off making judgments and reacting to those judgments. Therefore, it seems foolish, and nearly impossible, for people to disregard the basic opinions they possess for the sole purpose of coming across as politically acceptable to the student body. People sometimes feel as if they need to lie to simply come across as “nice,” but creating a base of lies upon which one gauges the world around them is a ridiculous endeavor to engage in.
Unfortunately, people at this college often see the most basic of opinions as radical. However, it’s important to realize that what is perceived to be politically correct at Williams is not indicative of how society perceives political correctness. We cannot deny the fact that Williams is by no means an accurate way to gauge social interactions in the real world. After all, I’m sure people would prefer opinions based in truisms that altogether possess a sort of “Kumbaya” feeling, but if we continue to ignore reality and not face opinion as an effective means of criticism, our student body will suffer a serious defect. Criticism gives people an opportunity to look back at themselves and see what progress can be made. It’s time that people stop being afraid of admitting change in light of an opinion. The very existence of opinions is meant to make people more self-reflective; thus, we cannot allow accepted and traditional methods of speech to silence us. We need to stop distancing ourselves from what opinions can add to the richness and diversity of our college.
Now, I make these comments realizing the limitations my standing as a first-year may bring. However, I prefer to see my position as one blessed with opportunity. I sometimes find myself suppressing my opinion simply because I feel it couldn’t fit into the Williams “way.” After all, if we are a diverse student body, what is so difficult about accepting ideas that completely go against the norm? Consensus breeds a sort of complacency that we cannot afford as a progressive college. Therefore, my hope and goal is to ensure that I do not fall into a trap of perpetual censorship just because that is what is “accepted” here at Williams.
Perhaps I should take a moment to clarify something: I am by no means suggesting radical and demeaning opinions should be voiced just for the sake of voicing them. Opinions are constructive only up to the point when they become negative, degrading and overall ineffective at creating a change on campus. Yet, we should by no means create an environment in which people feel threatened to express something they feel strongly about. In fact, it should be seen as a positive thing that people find comfort in the beliefs they hold. It is important that bold and controversial topics are addressed, as perhaps a conversation on those topics is what is needed to really understand the people surrounding us.
I challenge the student body to start being more radical in the opinions they hold. Set aside your own understandings of how things should be and try and grasp opinions you ultimately find utterly repulsive. Williams should by no means make you feel as if there is a sort of rhetorical mold you must adhere to. Free speech is of course free speech, and regardless of the viewpoint you have, it is important that your voice is at the very least heard. The moment we accept not being allowed to express our basic opinions will be the moment we fail to possess the qualities that truly make up who we are as individuals and as a college. And perhaps, as harsh as it may seem, it will take an element of getting over ourselves and our own proclivities to really look and see what opinion can provide for us. Being pretentious and elitist is by no means an effective criticism of someone’s opinion, and it is time that people disengage from their own biases to fully accept the diversity of opinions this campus should embrace.
After all, college is a great time and place to try out new ideas, test the thresholds of standing guidelines and be controversial. If what you say brings lots of criticism, you at least excited a voice in someone that otherwise probably would have continued to be dormant. So go ahead, be yourself. And just because your opinion seems to serve no immediate service does not mean it is not as important as the next person’s. Given the opportunity to voice it, you may just be surprised by what the outcomes of the decision to simply speak up could be.
Andrew Lyness ’17 is from Oceanside, Calif. He lives in Armstrong.