By Isabel Riddick '19
Last semester, Scripps invited Rhonda Fitzgerald, a diversity and inclusion speaker, to campus for New Student Orientation. She spoke about how to effectively apply sustained dialogue strategies to discussions and to navigate viewpoints that differ from our own. One thing she said stuck with me: “When you disagree, listen harder.”
I assume that Ms. Fitzgerald was primarily addressing students in the audience who may experience culture shock while discussing sensitive liberal topics; for example, LGBT rights or Black Lives Matter. As a black, queer liberal, I am obviously in agreement with such topics. I later realized that Ms. Fitzgerald’s sentiments can also be applied to conservative dialogue; after all, I didn’t come to college just to affirm my liberal views. Therefore, I resolved to read every article that the conservative news platform Claremont Independent publishes.
Of the plethora of student newspapers at the Claremont Colleges, the Independent by far the most controversial. The majority of Independent articles detail conservative students’ perceived struggle against the oppressive nature of liberalism. In high school, I would have dismissed such sentiments as literary trash and vehemently refuse to read them. However, Ms. Fitzgerald’s speech encouraged me to actively seek out the narratives of these people; people that I would otherwise never associate myself with.
Granted, there is not a single Independent article that doesn’t annoy me. In fact, I could pull up any one of their articles at random and write reams upon reams of rebuttal. For example, the Independent’s most recent article “Dear Citizens Climate Lobby: President Chodosh Is Not Obligated to Endorse Your Beliefs On Climate Change” by Teagen Knight is riddled with erroneous facts (“there [is] still political debate on whether or not human-induced climate change exists”), and accusations of CMC “catering to a progressive political agenda”. Why Knight seems to be so vehemently opposed to raising carbon prices is beyond me. However, the message Knight expresses is true; as the President of a school with a wide array of viewpoints and backgrounds, Chodosh is indeed not obligated to endorse any kind of political sentiment. Should he? If I had a say, absolutely; but in the end, he has the right to perform his job at his own discretion.
The backlash Independent staff receive is understandably astronomical. Long-winded, angry counterarguments are not hard to find in their articles’ comment sections. Most of these comments are fairly accurate in their critique. However, when censure of the Independent’s views extends beyond the newspaper itself, it can become a form of censorship. Editor-in-chief Steven Glick recently described his resignation as a Pomona Writing Center Fellow in his article, “I Resign: The Writing Center’s Mission Is to Teach Writing, Not Ideology”, due to what he felt was harassment for his political views. He describes being told by a professor that his presence keeps the Writing Center from being a “safe space” and was highly encouraged to reflect on and rectify his views. If what he says is true, then the Writing Center’s conduct was absolutely unacceptable. As Glick explains, a Writing Center’s job is simply to assist students with their writing skills, nothing more. If Glick pushed his conservative agenda onto Writing Center students, that would be one thing; but, it is inappropriate to tell him that his mere presence makes the Writing Center unsafe. Glick happens to be a very accomplished writer: his personal opinions should not factor into determining his writing ability. Therefore, it is understandable that Glick and other conservative students at the Claremont Colleges would feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of liberals here; this is something I did not consider before I started reading the Independent.
In no way am I suggesting that one must read the Independent in order to keep an open mind, nor do I endorse any of its narratives. I simply support its right to exist and be read, just as I would any other student publication. In fact, reading the Independent has given me invaluable perspective. Not only does it offer me a chance to reflect on opinions that differ from my own, it also acts to further solidify my views by examining the both the rampant flaws and the rare glimmers of truth found in conservative logic.