October 29, 2017

LUCIA MARTINEZ VALDIVIA: Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses.

No one should have to pass someone else’s ideological purity test to be allowed to speak. University life — along with civic life — dies without the free exchange of ideas.

In the face of intimidation, educators must speak up, not shut down. Ours is a position of unique responsibility: We teach people not what to think, but how to think.

Realizing and accepting this has made me — an eminently replaceable, untenured, gay, mixed-race woman with PTSD — realize that no matter the precariousness of my situation, I have a responsibility to model the appreciation of difference and care of thought I try to foster in my students.

If I, like so many colleagues nationwide, am afraid to say what I think, am I not complicit in the problem?

At Reed and nationwide, we have largely stayed silent, probably hoping that this extremist moment in campus politics eventually peters out. But it is wishful thinking to imagine that the conversation will change on its own. It certainly won’t change if more voices representing more positions aren’t added to it. . . . Nuance and careful reasoning are not the tools of the oppressor.

If some evil right-wing genius set out to marginalize and destroy the academy, xe could do no better than the campus left is doing on its own. But bravo to Prof. Valdivia for her courage.

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