Letters to the Editor
Last spring’s Old West protest was one hell of an event. In four (going on five) extraordinarily memorable years at Dickinson, I cannot think of another moment that I will as easily recall in 50 years. It accomplished vital and substantive goals. And on a campus where people love to bitch about things big and small – I do so as much as anyone else, which is to say, a lot – it warmed my heart to see somebody “doing something about it.” I will always remember the protest as a force for good. And any offense I may have taken with certain aspects of the protests does not compare with, say, the offense a woman takes with being sexually assaulted. Still, I cannot dismiss the feeling that was seared into me last March: If you did not actively support or attend the protest last spring, you were made to feel like you supported the coddling of rapists. That is the crucial and valuable sentiment in Mr. Meza’s letter that must not be overlooked.
Many people on this campus have relatives or close friends who have been raped or sexually abused. Many of those people do not support rapists being able to appeal their expulsion on the grounds of it being too severe, and are glad to see the campus becoming more aware of the blight of sexual violence. But many of that large subset of this student body took issue with the scorched-earth methods of the protest, and found them offensive.
I hate when people, particularly pundits, use the “some say” tactic, so let me be clear: I found elements of the protest to be disrespectful, distasteful and unnecessary. But I was scared to say so publicly last spring, because as Mr. Meza says, anyone who objected to the protestors’ methods in the slightest was made to “seem as though they were heartless.”
The goals of (1) changing the school’s policies and procedures regarding sexual violence and (2) improving the campus environment on matters of sex and gender are noble and valuable goals. It seems that, with great efforts, we have accomplished goal 1. However, goal 2 has not been achieved to nearly the degree that this campus is capable of achieving. And I believe that the days at Old West did, in some ways, slow that achievement.
Since I and many other men on this campus take issue with being painted as rapists for viewing the protest critically, then I should make it clear that most of the men and women who occupied Old West are kind, thoughtful and rational individuals. It is those select few who were caught up in the mob mentality, who were more interested in being part of the protest than combating sexual violence, that I am taking issue with. All perspectives (not sides; this is a discourse, not a disagreement) of this matter should consider Martin Luther King Jr.’s finest quote ever: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but bends towards justice.” I fundamentally support the goals of the protest, and frankly wish that I had the cojones to write this column a year ago. But I urge every Dickinsonian, particularly the progenitors and supporters of the protest, to consider how his or her actions are aligned with bending that moral arc. Even though I disagree with many of the fundamental points made by Mr. Meza (and those from an earlier article by classmate and teammate John Bingham ’12), what compelled him to write was a sense that only one perspective on the protests and sexual policies was allowed to be held on this campus. If that sense persists, we will have missed a tremendous opportunity for dialogue.