Posted by Molly O'Brien
We need to talk.
The Skidmore News recently published an op-ed criticizing the dialogues held on campus in recent weeks. According to the op-ed's author, our "culture of ‘dialogue' prevents Skidmore from developing a rigorous, deliberative atmosphere on campus," and the dialogues themselves are nothing more than "aggregate[s] of many unpleasant yet individual and disparate experiences." His message is relatively simple and initially logical: how can we make change if all we do is talk about wanting to make change?
We need to talk. Talking is the first step. Lots of people spoke at the dialogue, and more spoke out in the op-ed's comments. There wasn't a clear consensus on the article – with our multi-voiced chorus at Skidmore, a single, roaring consensus would be downright strange – but many students expressed the idea that the mere existence of a dialogue engenders change. I agree with these students. A place in which we can express our hopes and frustrations, however contrived that place may seem, can nevertheless become an incubator for change.
Skidmore isn't a perfect place; the Skidmore community has to grow and change together in order to prevent marginalization, discrimination, and miscommunication. Our community has to communicate. We need to talk. One commenter noted that "racism, classism, sexism, ableism, nationalism, among others, are not over" – how can we prevent racism, classism, sexism, ableism, nationalism, if we aren't even aware of the smallest incidences of these ills? We can become aware of our privileges and problems if we give people the chance to speak, especially those who have been hurt by one another. A dialogue is not a "delicious emotional buffet" – it is an opportunity to be heard.
Skidmore is a diverse place. To say otherwise would be to ignore what makes our school special. We come from different countries and different socioeconomic backgrounds; we have different appearances and different sexual identities, and we speak different languages. We all have Skidmore in common: taking classes, playing on sports teams, joining clubs, working at on-campus jobs, living in residence halls. Our origins and identities differ, but we are all connected by the mere fact of attending a small school and interacting with each other on a daily basis.
So, we need to talk. Always, we need to talk. We need to talk, and argue, and discuss, and disagree, and clash, and face off. And we need to be kind when we do so. Our community has to communicate, and when we communicate we must address each other with the respect we all deserve. We can clash without being callous, and we can disagree without being demeaning. Why must we be kind to each other? Because we're human. The real world is a rough place, and though there's no need to coddle one another, untrammeled spite and scorn should have no place on our campus. We don't have to support each other all the time, and there's plenty of room for snarky comebacks and razor-sharp wit at Skidmore, but if we don't respect each other, our college climate will change – it'll deteriorate.
These dialogues are a positive presence because they make us aware of the constant need for respect and tolerance. That's the kind of change I want to see here.
Class of 2012