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Letter to the Editor — Debbie Ojeda on the YAL decision

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The Sunken Campus

Last Wednesday night was the fourth time this semester I came home to my family with tears in my eyes. I have been lucky to have my spouse as a strong foundation, but I wonder what other students in Student Government Association do afterwards to deal with the anxiety. In my 29 years, this has been the hardest sense of minority stress I have ever experienced. I cannot imagine how it may feel for other students who are significantly younger than me. We forget that Student Government Association is an organization run by students. These students are very bright but still have a lot to learn and even in my age, I still have a lot to learn. We also forget why people run for student government. I will like to believe most do to get their constituents’ voices heard. That’s why I joined. I saw problems happening on my campus and wanted to use the skills I learned from my degree to help the community I care deeply about. Most importantly, I want to mentor students who barely have a voice not only on campus but in society, as well.

That is why I am concerned because I’ve noticed a trend in how we react, how we speak to each other and how this institution is impacted because of it. It is no secret that the current political climate has a negative influence on society and this campus. It has made many students less empathetic towards other students. I know people say that Joseph and Taben caused a divide on campus- that is frankly not true. No one person has the capability to do so and human behavior is far more complicated than that. As a social scientist myself, I know it goes beyond this campus. Is in our ideologies, the assumptions, and the stereotypes we have for each other. The divide happened because people are becoming more confident and comfortable in hating marginalized students on campus.

Which is why I want to write about Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). I have been very much outspoken about these national organizations even way before I knew there was a chapter starting on campus. I am a strong advocate for freedom of speech if it does not perpetuate violence against those who are often oppressed. Regardless of the laws that is in place, I know that language has a significant and strong hold on power and politics. When I voted no to recognize this organization, I did not vote no because of the students. I am also concerned for these students. This organization may disadvantage these students from getting to know other students from different backgrounds which has proven to be an asset for academia and innovation. It is not a judgement on the students who want to become an RSO, it is a judgement I have with the national organization. This organization will hurt these students whether they agree with me or not.

In addition, I voted no against the national organization because I have seen videos and read articles on how much it has negatively impacted universities. YAL uses freedom of speech similar to other hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, and the Westboro Church. They use freedom of speech as a tool to condone violent language toward minority groups. Similar organizations like YAL have used these concepts to try and dismantle safe spaces, claiming that these are not “intellectual” spaces. Safe spaces are intellectual spaces because it fosters conversations especially about gender, race, sex, politics, and intersectionality. I am concerned for students of color, trans students, student veterans, students with disabilities, queer students and students who have been marginalized; and I am concerned for the spaces on this campus that makes them feel safe at home and help them to be academically successful.

When we accept this hateful rhetoric and normalize it, what would become of this campus? How would students feel safe knowing that this institution has recognized and therefore normalize bigotry and hate speech? How can any student, including myself, feel safe on this campus?

That is why I am disappointed and respectfully disagree with Dr. Teri Hall’s choice to override the decision. To go behind SGA’s back without communicating with us feels disempowering to say the least. I believe it is the responsibility of the Association adviser to create learning moments like our previous adviser, Christine Schneikart-Luebbe. Christine would’ve wanted open conversations with the senate members instead of shaming members during public forum. As an educator myself, there must be room to foster conversations with students even when I believe they made the wrong decision. Moreover, I felt that she completely dismissed my valid fears by accusing me of being judgmental. To compare this situation to having a Muslim Student Association (MSA) also adds a layer of racial injustice. Those who are vehemently against MSA because of “its ties with a terrorist organization” are being racist and Islamophobic- it is different from my opposition of YAL. I am not against white people, I am not against cisgender men, and although I disagree with much of the conservative and libertarian ideals, I am not against having student organizations with these ideologies. I am strictly against an organization that manipulates students to feel like hate speech is not violent and perpetuates a culture that would strictly exclude many marginalized students. I am confused as to why Dr. Hall had the audacity to compare both situations as if they were similar. They are vastly different.

Quite honestly, it was the first time I have felt so blatantly disrespected. It’s been difficult to feel that the relationship the 59 th session
has with Dr. Teri Hall has been academic and respectful. It has me worried about the direction of which this university, this state and this nation is heading to. My anxiety makes me feel that this will not end well and many students will be negatively impacted. Argentine-Chilean- American academic and human rights activist, Ariel Dorfman said it best when it comes to language: “You want to free the world, free humanity, from oppression? Look inside, look sideways, look at the hidden violence of language. Never forget that language is where the other, parallel violence, the cruelty exercised on the body, originates.”

Nevertheless, although this session has one more senate meeting to go, it is important to know that we will still be here and we will be watching. What makes marginalized students so resilient is that we look out for each other.

Believe me, our voices will be heard.

—Debbie Ojeda

17 Comments

17 Responses to “Letter to the Editor — Debbie Ojeda on the YAL decision”

  1. Everything about this - on April 14th, 2017 11:53 pm

    This is on point. Debbie has an incredible way with words and conveyed the same concerns and feelings of many students. Thank you for forever being a voice of reason and a voice for those for those with a limited one.

    I will fight alongside you, and our voices will be heard. <3

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Why is it fair for your voices to be heard, but those who you may not agree with aren’t allowed to have a voice?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Oh, I forgot to make a <3 to make my comment as loving as yours.

    <3 <3 <3

    [Reply]

  2. Karl Watson on April 15th, 2017 8:17 am

    It’s funny…. you talk about being marginalized, yet you wish to silence debate and free speech of a marginal group of students. I started and ran the Friends University YAL and SFL chapter for 3 years. We even hosted an SFL regional conference. I, our sponsor, Dr. Russell Arben Fox, and our university administration can attest that not once did we promote anything but inclusion and open discourse.
    It’s unfortunate you can’t see the hypocrisy and irony of your vote and statements. If you’re interested, let’s get coffee and we can discuss further.

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  3. Jesse Allen on April 15th, 2017 9:03 am

    Very well done. More students on this campus need to wake up and realize the roots YAL has in hatespeech.

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  4. Concerned Shocker on April 15th, 2017 10:05 am

    It used to be, years ago, that universities were the birthplace of new ideas and students encouraged and faithfully believed in free, open discourse and debate as a way of discussing and understanding opposing points of view. This new modern, regressive leftist mentality that emotional stability and safe spaces are more important than having your worldview challenged benefits no one and does nothing to prepare students for the real world where actual discussion occurs and people are allowed to have opinions different than your own. For someone who claims to be an educator, I’m fearful for how horribly ill-equipped for life after college she is making our students.

    Perhaps the greatest issue with these sorts of arguments is that they continue to perpetuate failing ideologies. Conservatives, libertarians, and actual liberals all the right to express their concerns with current societal issues, and should be free to debate those concerns without be silenced because it may offend someone. The United States was founded under the belief in the individual’s unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and those rights don’t exist without a firm understanding of the First Amendment and the ways that it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Can certain speech be hateful? Absolutely, but the First Amendment protects that speech along with all others that don’t immediately call for imminent violence, because if it didn’t, it would allow people like Debbie to silence anyone who doesn’t agree with her own emotional frailties to be denied a right to their own beliefs, especially when she clearly doesn’t know and won’t take the time to understand other beliefs.

    Oh, and everyone hates the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and Westboro, so maybe students like this should take the time to sit down with a student they disagree with and attempt to understand their position rather than forcing their own down our throats and mislabeling us out of complete ignorance.

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  5. Killer Marmot on April 15th, 2017 11:20 am

    I am a strong advocate for freedom of speech if it does not perpetuate violence against those who are often oppressed.

    The YAF does not advocate for violence against anyone. Only in this writer’s tortured highly politicized opinion does YAF “perpetuate violence”.

    If you believe in censoring people using this excuse, then you don’t believe in free speech at all, so quite claiming you do.

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  6. Killer Marmot on April 15th, 2017 11:31 am

    Last Wednesday night was the fourth time this semester I came home to my family with tears in my eyes.

    Don’t wield the sword of censorship, attempting to lop off other’s right to freedom of speech and conscience, while trying to impress us on how terribly sensitive and caring you are.

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  7. Mr. Jones on April 15th, 2017 6:47 pm

    Debbie, you talk about hate speech but I don’t remember you or the rest of the SGA who are heavily vested identity politics denouncing Tim Wise from coming here in 2016. The same Tim Wise who speaks of whites being evil and are the main reason for racism and slavery. Why is there such a double standard?

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    WSU doesn’t like white people. If you are a white male, you go against their goals.

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  8. Just Sayin on April 16th, 2017 8:24 am

    It’s interesting that YAL chapters across the country so often become entangled in legal disputes concerning free speech. But oh wait! That’s nothing like the Westboro Baptist Church! No similarities there!

    I already attend a Wichita State where tactless and tasteless pro-life proponents have shoved billboard sized pictures of fetuses in my face. I don’t care if you are pro-life or pro-choice, this is beyond invasive. I don’t want more of this, I don’t want anything like this. What I have heard of YAL, there’s plenty more where that came from. I can’t wait for YAL’s next freedom of speech hijinx, where the concern of free speech is entirely masturbatory and serves their own agenda of noteriety.

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  9. Melissa on April 17th, 2017 6:06 am

    It wasn’t too long ago that female, minority and LGBT voices were suppressed because they were considered dangerous. It took time, but the First Amendment was pivotal in forcing governments and institutions to let them speak freely. What followed this speech was more recognition of their points of view and then laws to protect them.

    There is nothing wrong with free speech. When it comes to extreme or factually wrong ideas, it’s far better to let them speak out in the open and show others how they don’t make sense. To take a path of censorship only gives power to the state to block views they find threatening to their power.

    And now we have Ms. Ojeda trying to justify today what she would have decried years ago when the establishment tried to prevent black, gay, female, liberal, and minority speech on campuses. She’s arguing that she’s afraid and anxious. When you peel the onion, that’s at the root of most bigotry.

    In the end, Ms. Ojeda likes having the power to present only her views and tried to suppress others she disagrees with, even when she doesn’t know exactly what they will say. The politically correct have power on campus today and power corrupts. We’ve seen it full force in this letter to the editor.

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  10. Kurt Hines on April 17th, 2017 10:28 am

    The regressive left’s double talk is jaw dropping. The soeech of anyone who disagrees with the radical left is always, always, always labeled as “hate speech”. Never mind the left’s constant chorus of anti-white bigotry. Never mind the left’s full on constant disdain for the United States. Never mind that the left openly embraces the Marxist ideology thaf murdered 150 million people in the 20th century.

    It is the folks who support tradituonal liberty and decency who are the “violent” degenerates whose right to free speecg must be crush, you know, to protect free speech.

    1984 should become required reading again.

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  11. CommonSense on April 17th, 2017 6:50 pm

    re: “How would students feel safe knowing that this institution has recognized and therefore normalize bigotry and hate speech?”

    You might try actually looking up the definition of “bigot”:

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bigot
    “A person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.”

    It is unfortunate that many people like you use that term, while being the ones who are so intolerant of the views of others that you feel justified in preventing them from organizing a group, or in other cases from having a speaker. A few decades ago Jewish members of the ACLU (including holocaust survivors) defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in a town where 1 out of 6 people were Holocaust survivors, despite obviously finding their views repugnant.

    They understood actual tolerance, defending the right of even people with repugnant views to speak, viewing it as rather unfortunate that anti-speech folks had co-opted some of the ideas of the neo-Nazis they were objecting to and were trying to squash speech in a free country. They grasped that freedom of speech, and freedom of association need to be granted to everyone, and if you try to take it away from others, you risk establishing a precedent where others can attempt to take it way from you if they ever gain power. The answer is to try to get people to agree to as much protection of such freedoms as possible.

    Those from other countries where freedom of speech isn’t allowed would likely explain the importance to those who have a simplistic naive view of the importance of it.

    Some people would label your intolerant views “hate speech”, and as ideas that should be repugnant to people in a free society, so should they be allowed to silence you? Fortunately of course, unlike you free speech wouldn’t actually advocate such a thing since they grasp that tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with people, it means peacefully co-existing with them. They grasp that others should be free to associate by themselves and have speakers. No one is forcing you to attend their meetings or hear their speakers.

    re: ” I am strictly against an organization that manipulates students to feel like hate speech is not violent ”

    The vast majority of college professors in this country, and educated people in general (sadly, not all I guess) would explain that speech isn’t violence, and there are important reasons for not allowing them to be confused. Unfortunately some people seem to learn too little basic philosophy and history to see through the motivated emotional diatribes of those who try to argue differently.

    re: “Quite honestly, it was the first time I have felt so blatantly disrespected. ”

    I’d suggest learning from Holocaust survivors who defend freedom of speech what real disrespect is like. Those who seem to fail to bother learning the basics of history and philosophy and yet attempt to push their views on others are going to be disrespected.

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  12. Jamie Quattlebaum on April 18th, 2017 11:06 am

    For those who feel vehemently opposed to the article and its sentiment, I would ask you to reconsider and review the article a second time. My understanding of the article’s intent is that there is a concern expressed that the YAL has been a contentious issue for many and that our university may not benefit as a whole from the potential division it may create between different populations of students (whether those differences are ideological, racial/ethnic, religious, etc.)
    I think it’s a fair and valid expression that many students of color or minority groups are concerned about their treatment by powerful institutions that are intended to treat all individuals equally – and I also think this is often conflated with or misunderstood as an intentional oppression of whites when this concern is voiced. I believe the arguments against this article are not addressing the intended point and have veered into a misunderstanding: If you believe Mrs. Ojeda is wrong, then please explain what the YAL has to offer or what this WSU chapter will do to ensure that it is not adding to the tension or division to what already exists. How will this chapter be different? How can we unite and support all of our students?
    If your belief is that the initial rejection of the YAL is a retaliatory or discriminatory act against whites then the tension is there; and it is likely present for all students to some degree. I believe we can have free speech and mutually respectful dialogue that considers the concerns of all students as important. I believe Mrs. Ojeda feels that way. And I believe you feel that way too. I don’t believe anyone on our WSU campus wants to support hate-speech, I don’t believe anyone on our campus wants to support targeting students for ridicule, for humiliation, or for torment. At least one chapter of YAL has a documented event in which this took place, students who are deeply troubled by this event understandably want assurances. So please be open to this concern, be open to this dialogue: how will this be different?

    [Reply]

  13. Dr. Necessitor on April 19th, 2017 12:01 pm

    29 years is long past the age where you should have gained the perspective and emotional control of an adult. Please seek out counseling.

    [Reply]

  14. CommonSense on April 21st, 2017 11:30 am

    re: “explain what the YAL has to offer”

    Some students wish the group, therefore they should be free to have it in the spirit of the freedom of association the 1st amendment. What business is it of yours to second guess what they have “to offer”, rather than leaving them free to make their own choice about whether the group has something to offer? Let them be free to make their own decisions. It is possible to learn to let go of the desire to force others to make the same choices you do, whether they like it or not. It is possible to learn to be pro-choice on allowing people to make their own decisions.

    re: “How can we unite and support all of our students?”

    People have differing views and interests, which is why different organizations exist. No particular group has to serve all students nor “unite” them since the whole purpose of a club is to serve a subset of the students.

    re: “is a retaliatory or discriminatory action against whites”

    Contrary to those who are obsessed with rational issues, others don’t care about people’s skin color and are concerned about basic principles. It is a discriminatory action against a group of students that wishes to form a club, since some disagree with their speech and wish to squash it, contrary to the spirit of the first amendment.

    re: “free speech and mutually respectful dialogue that considers the concerns of all students as important”

    No you can’t. You seem to not grasp the concept of free speech. Speech which doesn’t consider the concerns of all students as important needs to be allowed, despite your desire to force others to speak only things you approve of.

    re: “At least one chapter of YAL has a documented event in which this took place”

    What occurred was that a student took a public stand in local media on positions the speaker disagreed with. The student didn’t need to attempt the talk, but did, and the speaker chose to critique her. That is a valid exercise of free speech, which isn’t changed by your dislike of the speech. Should Trump get to silence everyone he disagrees with? Authoritarians exist across the political spectrum, but sometimes so lacking in self awareness they don’t even grasp that is what they are.

    re: “how will this be different?’

    Why does it mater? Learn the basics of the concept of freedom of speech and freedom of association and stop trying to force others to behave as you wish.

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