Last semester, I spent most of my editorial space criticizing fad liberalism and the lack of intelligent discourse on campus. The results, to many, were astounding. Responding to my column The problem with fad liberalism (09/13/2004), Rob Murphy commented on the Daily’s website: “Finally, the Michigan Daily displays some balance on the Op/Ed page! It’s a miracle!” Similarly, responding to my column Wrong candidate, wrong country, wrong time (11/01/2004), Jeff Wilson commented on the Daily’s website, “Wow!! A voice of reason does exist at the Michigan Daily. I’ve been hoping for almost 20 years and it’s finally happened. Thanks.”
Others, though, were infuriated by my commentary. In response to my column Random thoughts on Kerry, Edwards and Bush ’04, (10/11/2004), Jane Myers, a University Medical School administrator, sent me an e-mail insisting that I was “filled with mindless hatred.” Shaun Godwin, an Ann Arbor Project organizer, commented on the Daily’s website that my column Borders employees, unfit for command (09/27/2004) was “recycled slander.”
In short, the result of last semester’s commentary was a mixed bag. But that, to me, is a good sign. If reasonable, and sometimes unreasonable, minds can disagree, that means there’s hope for intelligent discourse on campus. When the Daily hired me to be a columnist, the editors were looking to add a little balance to the editorial page. Now that my tenure at the Daily has come to an end, I hope the editors continue to solicit more conservative-minded columnists so that a little balance becomes true balance. It won’t necessarily be a watershed moment in the impressive 114 year history of this paper, but it will set a precedent that others, including the University’s hiring committee, could follow.
Much has been written about the biases of university professors, and it’s no secret that more than three-quarters of these individuals are registered Democrats. Anyone who’s sat through a few classes at the University or pretty much any other university can attest to that. The problem, however, is not the number of registered Democrats behind the lecterns; it’s the preaching behind the lecterns as if they were pulpits. Often, only one side of the issue is presented, and the dissent that is encouraged creates a false impression of genuine debate. More often than not, the issue is not whether the pro-life movement makes a reasonable case for the discontinuation of legal abortions, but instead whether women under the age of 18 should be forced to obtain parental consent before obtaining an abortion.
This false impression of genuine debate, coupled with professors who foster this environment, chills the opinions of more conservative-minded students in the classroom and creates an alternative environment equally detrimental to intelligent discourse. These students tend to react to, rather than think through, the issue presented, and everyone suffers as a result. These students get involved with Young Americans for Freedom, The Michigan Review and College Republicans — organizations where the question is not whether the University should use affirmative action to ensure that historically disadvantaged races have equal access to higher education, but instead whether the grading curve should be more generous now that the University is admitting “higher caliber” students.
When I was a sophomore, I wrote a letter to the Daily disparaging the school’s affirmative action policies that even read at its best can only be described as disgraceful, petty and most importantly, reactionary. It’s almost a blessing I can’t find it in the Daily’s online archives, but it goes something like this: Affirmative action is inconsistent with an elite school’s mission to educate the best and brightest students possible because it favors minorities who aren’t prepared for rigorous coursework over white students who are. But then again, how can I complain, because without affirmative action, the curve in econ. wouldn’t have been the same.
Read that again, and then imagine having your name printed next to it. If ever an apology were in order, this is certainly one of those times. We can’t get anywhere without a common understanding, and we can’t have a common understanding unless we have open avenues for intelligent, rationale discourse. For what I have failed in this respect, I am sorry. But for what I have succeeded in this respect, many thanks to those who’ve made it possible.
Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.