Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Campus needs discourse

When I decided to attend Augustana College, I was most looking forward to having a home away from home. However, what I didn’t know was that I was getting another set of parents when I arrived.
Between Starfish and Student Success Services on campus, there isn’t much room for individual independence or self-regulation. While I don’t mind the “parental controls” that relate to academic and personal performance, there is something precious lost in the overprotective culture of Augustana.
After all, the Augie Bubble isn’t just a geographical boundary; it’s an ideological one as well. We’re a student body lacking an important characteristic: grit. While there is a small population of brave individuals, it is rare for students to be encouraged to debate. Debate is inflammatory, according to Augustana standards. Debate, nonetheless, is necessary to form opinions, make critical decisions and become an informed citizen.
We allow for dialogue but never discourse. Everything we do is polite and often with reservation. I think it’s time for some “explicit” content on Augustana’s campus. All things considered, our most talked about news content concerns local wildlife or Greek life. All I can think of in response to that is “how cute.” I still have hope for Augustana, thanks to the rise in student protests taking place across the country.
The forbidden fruit of discourse was plucked on our campus last year, in lieu of protests by a group of students concerning racial issues on campus, but once again, we still found a way to make it “nice.”
With an official peaceful protest policy, we’ve undermined exactly what makes protests important. We’ve dampened the discussion, forcing students to take to Facebook and other social media sites to voice their opinions. Shouldn’t campus be our sounding board? Shouldn’t our arguments be molded in classrooms and campus forums?
Instead we’ve created a culture in which we are almost exclusively neutral. While that’s great for retention, it’s not great for reinforcing respectful and intellectual conversations about important issues.
The examples of increased neutrality seem to escalate each year I attend, but that’s not my greatest concern for our student body. Something else is starting to dominate our campus that is even more concerning.
What I witnessed on Dec. 1 in the Brew is the quintessential example. Each year, Right to Life finds new ways to promote their organization’s ideology.
While I have no problem with Right to Life starting a dialogue, I do have a problem with the one-sided collegiate cushion surrounding them and the results of almost every campaign they incite. Just as the seasons change, I am sure I will see the group receive underhanded insults, which often evolve into rants, raves, and last year, vandalism.
Due to events in the past, including last spring, the group has been allowed a frightening amount of protection from the college. During last year’s Life Week, posters and flags put up by the group were ripped down and disposed of. While this kind of reaction is never the answer, the college’s response is what frustrated me most. Not only did the college offer a $250 reward for information concerning the act, they issued a campus wide email concerning respect of free speech and expression.
The college took a definitive stance, intentional or not, to protect only one side of the argument. Looking back, what we should have been protecting was both the Right to Life demonstration and the flyers placed as a counter message. The counter flyers were not “approved” by the college, resulting in their disposal.
Whether an individual student or a group posted the counter flyers, they should have been able to remain alongside the Right to Life flyers, approval or not. Why remove something that encouraged a real conversation between students? What could have been a strong display of conversation via action was squandered. The dialogue was cut short.
Similar was the process of last year’s protest on campus. The act of seeking permission by the protestors and the act of “giving” permission by the administration was similar to that of a thumbs up from a parent for a messy art project. Sure, your mom hands you the markers, but she knows they’re harmless in the greater scheme of things.
Enough with the forums, which already garner low attendance numbers and one-sided agreements. Let’s get messy.
It’s time to color the walls with Sharpie, not Crayola Washables.

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Campus needs discourse