On Friday, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity will be kicking off its Critical Conversations speaker series, which will feature Cornel West and Robert George as the first speakers.
Their discussion, which will center on ideological differences and free speech on campuses, represents an active effort to come together — if not in ideology, then at least in the spirit we should debate our differences candidly.
Two conditions must be met to actualize this ideal: free speech and a respect toward dialogue.
Free speech on campuses has been scrutinized by many, with some arguing speech should end when someone’s emotional pain begins, others disregarding the emotional realm as if non-physical pain were wholly inconsequential and many stances scattered in between.
Debating what free speech means and whether it’s an ideal we should strive toward shouldn’t be condemned; nothing is too sacred to be shielded from evaluation.
We believe free speech is incredibly important and remains a vital element of our campus, but it’s paralyzed without a healthy respect for hearing out ideas that conflict with our own.
That shouldn’t be conflated with respecting people who advocate genocide or any other sort of horror; it only means we respect the reality we may be mistaken in our beliefs.
Moreover, it means we obey the imperative that flows from that reality — to seek out ways to prove ourselves wrong.
With all the sources of disagreement and mutual hostility we encounter in life, it’s important to find ways to engage with well-meaning people who disagree with you.
In creating this series, Auburn University is fulfilling some of its most important duties as an institution of higher learning: promoting intellectual self-criticism and the expansion of our comfort zones.
Throughout the years, Auburn has hosted a range of speakers — comedians have made us laugh, provocateurs have angered us, authors have enlightened us.
But seldom have we had a University-facilitated engagement of opposing ideas.
The University should continue this type of series in the years to come.
Additionally, the University must make sure it accommodates students’ busy schedules when deciding when and where these events take place.
We encourage all students to attend as many of these talks as possible, even you have to put aside some other things.