Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Free Speech and Race Relations Discussed at Trin Talks

GILLIAN REINHARD ’20

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Trin Talks is a ConnPIRG initiative to bring together different voices across the political spectrum on Trinity’s campus. The series of debates has brought several different topics to the attention of the community. On Thursday, March 8, Trin Talks held another session where the issue of free speech was dis- cussed. The panelists included Nat Bush ’19, Silvia Nunez ’21, Teddy Allmendinger ’20, Sam Spencer ’21, Antonio Williams ’19,and Maz- in Khalil ’15 M’18 with Ethan Yang ’20 serving as moderator. The group represented a wide variety of different views regarding social and political issues.

Yang’s rst question concerned Trinity’s funding and the relationship between donations and higher institutions in general. As Yang correctly noted, donations often rest onpolitical expectations, citing the example of several donors withholding their nancial support following remarks attributed to Professor of Sociology Johnny Williams over the summer. This was a difficult initial conversation for the panelists, who reached a consensus that donations were necessary for the College to function, and that donor political biases are unfortunately inevitable.

 

The second question posed addressed the idea of physical safe spaces at Trinity and other colleges. Many students, such as Khalil and Williams, believed that such spaces were necessary, to give marginalized students an opportunity to feel comfortable. Others, such as Spencer and Allmendinger, believed that the spaces would ultimately divide groups on campus rather than create more unity within the community.

Continuing the debate, ConnPIRG posed the question to the panel concerning a recent law in New York, where citi- zens who do not use the preferred gender pronoun ofanindividual can face legal nes ofupto $500. The panel was divided on this issue, with remarks ranging in erce sup- port to opposition. Nunez stressed the importance of hate speech and free speech, which supplemented Bush’s opinion that the fines could be problematic, but starts an important conversation regarding gender identity and could potentially aid in education regarding the issue.

The final, and perhaps most controversial question in the debate asked the panelists their opinion on the addition of a diversity class, a requirement in Trinity’s core curriculum. This idea was suggested by the Action Coalition of Trinity (ACT). Currently the College has a require- ment to take a class that is relevant to global engagement, however, this class does not necessarily have to address issues of race, gender, and class. Khalil remarked that Trinity al- ready offers a class that all students can take tolerance more about social issues, “Racism” taught by Professor Johnny Williams. Khalil noted that white students often shied away from the class, because of the professor’s controversial remarks regarding white supremacy in America. Others on the panel were quick to agree that a diversity requirement is needed to alleviate some of the racial insensitivity on Trinity’s campus. The conversation quickly evolved to tackle race relations at the College, which reflected deeply different opinions regarding minority groups on campus, but also a desire to cooperate to make the campus a more accepting space.

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