Inclusivity applies to all students

Allegheny boasts of revolutionary alumni like muckraker Ida Tarbell and lawyer Clarence T. Darrow. Our college encourages individuals to be stewards for change.While I relish the notion that we should work for change on campus, I also believe that we must tread carefully. We have seen in the past week a negative media response to the “I Heart Female Orgasm” discussion in the chapel. Fox News and other news outlets covered this topic intensely. Certainly these events brought negative attention for the campus. Many were hurt by the event’s location and voiced their concerns before the event took place. President Mullen even issued a statement, saying, “I wish that another venue had been chosen.” I agree with President Mullen.

Several of my peers remarked,  “At least this will bring students who are like the rest of us to the school and keep the others out.” Many argued that the chosen venue was acceptable because the Ford Chapel is non-denominational, which ignores the fact that Ford Chapel is still a place of worship. Is that truly supportive of inclusivity and diversity? How are we promoting an atmosphere for people to grow when students’ religious beliefs are so flagrantly disrespected?

This is not the first time many students on campus found themselves targeted by their peers.  In November of last year, letters were sent in the campus mailboxes in a call for promoting the campus initiative of diversity. Many students felt concerned that the administration was not addressing important issues on campus. I certainly understand this. However, a mass letter that was placed in several student mailboxes used the insult “pale-face.” Who thought that this racial slur would not offend others?

One student expressed his concerns with the Diversity Coalition and spoke with an administrator about this issue and never received a reply. This double standard left many silent and upset, myself included.

For weeks we remained quiet.

I was shocked when residents of Walker Annex showed me a bulletin board in the dorm hall referenced the literary work “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. While many aspects of this work may have validity, it is a very charged and uninvited attack to a large portion of the student population on campus.

This leads us to a greater question. If Ford Chapel is not sacred because it’s non-denominational and the administration can selectively choose which terms are insulting and upset individuals are afraid to speak up, then how are we going to progress as a campus community?

This is my appeal for unity on the Allegheny campus.

I am a Catholic white male. I often feel attacked here at Allegheny and I am not alone in feeling this way. I am saddened by this selective approach to diversity and inclusivity that students and the administration have taken. We are all individuals and we are all worthy of a voice.

I have a vested interest in seeing Allegheny become a better place. Like many others at Allegheny, I have invested a lot of time and taken out large loans to be a part of this community.

I have a diverse group of friends and feel that I am inclusive. It is unjust to be attacked as “white and privileged” when I am working in pursuit of the goal of inclusivity. I firmly believe that these attacks are facilitated by a lack of understanding of what diversity and inclusivity should mean.

Allegheny’s student population works for change. I have seen nothing but civility throughout the discussions on fracking in Bousson, because students are acting with one another in pursuit of a common purpose. It’s time to make a stand in other areas.

We must come together and acknowledge the issues that truly are dividing our campus: charged language and selective approaches to inclusivity.

Let’s think about the future. As we have seen through the recent media coverage, there are many members of Allegheny’s community both on and off campus upset with the hosting of a sexually-themed event in the chapel. We can’t simply shrug off their concerns. They deserve a voice. They feel attacked, too. Why weren’t their beliefs and backgrounds respected? The failure to acknowledge this now will damage our reputation as a community and as an institution. However, a call for unity will promote respect and attention to the diversity issue because others will take the time to listen.

We should celebrate our heritages and beliefs on campus, not criticize one another for celebrating them. We should support others on issues such as gender and sexual preference and race and religion because these things make us beautiful by promoting our individuality. We should embrace the needs and feelings of others, not selectively, but intrinsically. When there is injustice, we must work together to fight that injustice.

I do not wish this article to be a criticism on anyone or any group on campus. I am simply calling for civilized discussions so that we can better understand one another. We need to be willing to listen to others, even if they seem wrong.  We need to recognize in the age of social media and a 24 hour news cycle that a seemingly small issue on campus can elicit a massive negative reaction from the outside world.

Let’s consider the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let’s be this light. Let’s show love and not hate. Let’s be inclusive and unified.