Productive education is key to better understanding

By Aimee Janus
April 8, 2002
The Post

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In response to Wednesday’s letter, “Diversity programming not answer to violence,” the point of a mandatory diversity class is not to enforce conformity but to incite education.

As a student here, I’ve been required to take numerous classes, not all relating to my major, to ensure I leave here a well-rounded, educated individual. I would much rather have been required to learn about lifestyles outside the norm than take Geography 101. Knowledge is power, or so I’ve heard. The LGBT community is not asking for diversity classes to brainwash the majority. LGBT people and their allies are asking for the majority to be educated and coexist peacefully.

This is not an issue of better campus lighting; this is an issue of ignorance, intolerance and violations of individuals’ basic rights. How does one combat ignorance if not through education? I don’t feel a diversity course threantens to eliminate genuine diversity. It could offer further insight into areas not on the so-called majority agenda.

I also find it amusing that someone so concerned with these types of programs “weakening other academic departments” feels that there s “no good reason to think education is the answer.” To worry that academia will be undermined while at the same time suggesting that academia is not the solution is an interesting point indeed. Our demand is not to weaken education, but to increase it.

Moral and political issues are an inseparable part of reality. Claiming that OU can’t take a stand on these issues because it is a “value-neutral institution,” denies that fact that refusing to include a diversity course is as much political as providing it. Take a stand, don’t take a stand; either way a political statement is made. Consider this scenario: people get assaulted, action is demanded, and politics and funding come into play. While all these politics are bouncing around we get a new football field, major staff cutbacks and a tuition increase. How right you are labeling OU a “value-neutral institution.” OU has values. They’re just capitalist values.

And how dare you dub OU “aggressively tolerant of LGBT lifestyle.” In some respects yes, but in so many ways not at all. Do you really think this is the first year a hate crime was committed? Do you think people didn’t try to encourage more support from the university last year or the year before? No, this was just the last straw. It happened on campus so it can more easily be discussed and is much harder to ignore. It astounds me that things can be left on the back burner until someone sustains cracked ribs. There is no such thing as an LGBT tolerant community. Some are better than others, but ignorance is everywhere.

As far as LGBT-friendly floors go, I think they are not only needed but also overdue. The request did not state LGBT members should be allowed to room with romantic partners. No one is asking for advantages over heterosexual romantic partners. We are asking for a non-hostile learning environment. We are asking to walk down the halls of our dorms without having to hear bigoted verbal harassment.

The part of this letter that grabbed my attention and is still stuck in my mind is the request that both sides “do what is best for the community, not just what an activie minority forces upon everyone else.” How can you separate an “active minority” from the university community? They are one and the same. Does being a member of a minority mean you forfeit your right to walk down the street after an Open Doors dance? As a member of the majority, should I stand by and say the majority is right The writer seems opposed to conformity, but he is asking for the situation to remain static. He is asking the majority to unite to oppose change.

I am so sick and infuriated by this becoming an us-versus-them issue. This is not feminists or homosexuals rallying to make the majority the same as them. This is people asking for the same basic rights as anyone else. This is me as a woman asking for the right to not fear being sexually assaulted. This is me as an ally of the gay community asking that friends can walk home without being beaten. This is me as a “majority member” who simultaneously supports “an active minority.” This is me as a human being asking for educational tolerance and respect for people regardless of their minority/majority status, gender or sexual orientation. Can an increased police force and better lighting on campus accomplish that? Consider this letter to the editor signature #106 on the letter of demands to the university.

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