By Alyssa Richardson
Last week, James Madison University (JMU) had the opportunity to hear conservative speaker Kate Obenshain. JMU’s College Republicans sponsored the event, and JMU’s NeW chapter was very excited to attend. Of course this event did not occur without some controversy. Flyers around campus were defaced or completely torn down, intolerant comments were left online, and the Women’s Studies’ Program hosted feminist speaker Susan Douglas on the same night and at the same time. I wrote the following OpEd piece to enlighten my larger campus:
I would like to remind fellow JMU students that our actions represent not only ourselves, but also our university. I was astonished at the intolerance around campus for the JMU College Republicans hosting a conservative female speaker. One online comment reads “This is the most offensive thing I have seen in quite some time. I can’t believe that James Madison University would even tolerate this event…Such a step back for women. I cannot express how appalled I am at the unrivaled stupidity of College Republicans at JMU.”
Why are such rude comments necessary? How is the simple advertisement for a nationally known and successful woman to speak extremely offensive? I do not agree with all speakers that different organizations host at JMU, but I would NEVER consider defacing their advertisements or leaving such intolerant comments. I believe such name-calling reveals an immaturity that is below a college student’s capability for rational thought.
I applaud JMU for “tolerating” the event because our campus should represent the viewpoints of all students. Tolerance goes both ways. Traditional conservative values deserve equal representation with diverse and liberal values. Beyond tolerance, I call for respect. Some students are excited to hear different views presented on campus. Even if you don’t agree with the message, you can choose not to attend or participate in the Q&A section. Whatever your personal opinions, please represent yourself with maturity and show that JMU students can be respectful of beliefs that are not their own. Thank you.
Although this OpEd was sent to the campus newspaper two times, it was not recognized. Instead, an editorial labeling Obenshain’s arguments as dated and homophobic was published. I believe this intolerance emphasizes the need for conservative organizations such as NeW on college campuses. The liberal culture is louder than ever and conservatives need to make their voices heard. JMU’s NeW chapter hopes to create a loud voice on our campus, as we are already brainstorming for conservative speakers we want to host during the next academic year.
Alyssa is a Junior at JMU and the President of JMU’s NeW Chapter