This letter was submitted to The Hilltop Monitor by Calvin Heit, president of College Republicans and first-year Oxbridge institutions & policy and international relations major.
On Wednesday March 31, I placed College Republicans fliers in the Pryor Learning Commons with the intent to build some new momentum for the club and promote our sign-up table in the Union on April 19.
However, that Saturday morning I received word that the fliers were vandalized, ridden with hateful messages. “Republican Party” was replaced with “white supremacy.” They also claimed that College Republicans had blood on their hands. The act itself was incredibly upsetting, but I was even more upset that this happened on our campus.
I knew the fliers would generate some disagreement from a large portion of our student population, but I honestly did not believe that kind of hate existed on this campus. These kinds of acts highlight the importance and necessity of clubs like College Republicans and College Democrats in promoting civility about issues filled with division. Despite the hate exhibited by this act, I am confident this incident can spark a period of growth for all of us here at William Jewell College.
Since joining College Republicans, I have been increasingly excited about the future of the club, so this kind of retaliation felt personal. It was not the civility and respect that are supposed to constitute so much of our campus’ identity and culture. It is the purpose of our club to add to the civility and constructive discourse at Jewell.
We are not here to be exclusive, talk trash to those with differing opinions, or plan a riot on the steps of Jewell Hall. Indeed, it is essential for clubs like College Republicans to promote a diversity of perspectives. We, as future leaders, cannot sacrifice original or constructive thinking because we are afraid to be wrong – let alone when a member of the Jewell community attempts to deride it through misrepresentation. It is our aim to create a constructive and well-informed discussion of what it means to be a Republican in the 21st Century, and foster respect in our bifurcated political discourse. We should all strive to improve our understanding and beliefs through civil discourse and experience – most importantly with people whose beliefs differ from our own.
Jewell’s commitment to inclusivity and civility is admirable, exemplified in its CTI curriculum and branding. However, we still have a long way to go, together. We place a lot of emphasis on being empathetic and understanding of someone else’s identity, be it socio-economic, ethnic, race, gender, sexuality or anything else. That is fantastic and should be continued and encouraged as much as possible. But empathy is not confined to understanding others’ identities, it also requires respect for their ideas and values that differ from your own.
Civil interaction between differing ideas and agendas is what drives the advancement of our society, both academically and culturally. Music, technology, art, marketing, sports, are all advanced when diverse sets of well-informed, experienced individuals participate in civil discussion about the future. That is what we as future leaders must strive to encourage, just as much as the inclusivity of identities. It is of course a noble effort to vie for equality of people, but in order to produce a better world for our future selves and our children, we must also strive for the civility of ideas.
We, College Republicans at Jewell, want to attract people of all sorts to discuss how to build a better America, one based on strong individuality and families – that ensures the protection of freedoms and rights without the abdication of responsibility or duty. We will oppose any unjust discrimination against any persons or groups on the grounds of race or ethnicity, religion, sex or gender, sexual orientation or birthplace.
We stand for an American future that is both anchored and open. We acknowledge the wealth of discussions and debates about these issues across the U.S. and within the Republican Party. But we are very confident that many Americans – of all sorts of colors, identities and creeds – will find these ideas attractive as we work together to reform American political life.
By the way, we know that everyone will not agree with our ideas. That is why we will never ask Jewell’s Student Senate to use your student fees to go to our club. We challenge other political clubs at Jewell to do the same.
So to whoever wrote those horrible things on our fliers, thank you. You have exposed a problem on our campus that we should all commit to removing. I was insulted to be told I have blood on my hands, as if my ideals and beliefs celebrate violence or violate morality. As if the Republican party, like any other large ideological group, is defined solely by its worst actors, not those attempting to improve and redefine it.
In order to truly achieve our goals of equality and inclusivity, we must also strive for civility and respect, which I know we are all capable of. Take this event not as one of injury for our student body, but as one of growth for our campus community. When faced with problems like this, we must look it square in the eyes and never back down. That is why political clubs exist, and it is how civility and respect will carry all of us into the future. See you April 19.
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