Friday, October 24, 2008

Fredonia State Protests Intolerance

Jessica Kalny (words) and Mike Wayman (photos), two students from my Intro to Grad Studies in English seminar this semester, collaborated on the following report.


On October 7, 2008, a man named “Jim” obtained permission to enter campus for the day. He has been visiting several SUNY campuses to spread his message. However, it is not the kind of message that one would want to pass on to the next generation. His message was one of intolerance, particularly against the “typical college lifestyle” and homosexuals.

Focus on the Speakers, 10/7/08

Rather than responding with violence or cruelty, over 2,000 students and faculty members of Fredonia State gathered together to protest his bigoted message. When you consider the fact that there about 6,000 students and faculty members total, you can imagine how big this event truly was.

Crowd Scene, 10/7/08

Having been there, I can tell you that it was an extremely powerful scene. To see so many peers coming together to prove that intolerance is not acceptable. We did not show any disrespect towards Jim, and I’m sure that he expected us to. As a campus, we wanted to show him that it is not right under any circumstance to discriminate against any group of individuals.

After a number of students spoke their minds about this topic, the percussion guild showed their support by playing several songs which many of the students danced along to. I can honestly say that this protest made me proud to be a part of such a tolerant campus community.


For more on the spontaneous protests, check out coverage in the local newspaper. Here's one of the many youtube clips that went up soon after the protests:

[Update 1 (10/30/08, 8:11 pm): My old sparring partner The Objectivist sees the protestors as the agents of intolerance here. And there's a vigorous debate on the faculty listserv I may comment on later.]


Dale said...

Hola Sr. Constructivist!

Please define "intolerant". Here's my definition (rough draft): X is intolerant of people of kind K if and only if X is normally inclined to act in an uncivil way towards people of kind K.

"Civility" is hard to define, but it would rule out harassment, abuse, constant rudeness, attempts to run them out of town, and just any undue interference in their affairs.

Note that (1) intolerance is a feature primarily of people, not beliefs, (2) tolerance is compatible with thinking people of kind K are doing something morally wrong, irrational, misguided, imprudent, or all of the above (3) tolerance is compatible with thinking people of kind K will, unless they change their course, go to hell. I think that (4) tolerance is even, in theory, compatible with *hating* people of kind K, so long as you can successfully hide it, or not act on it. However, I think people who hate those of kind K tend to be intolerant of those people.

In sum, tolerance is a social and negative virtue.


If you say yes, my next question: What reason did, or do we have for thinking that the campus visitors were intolerant of gays?

If you say no, how do you define "tolerance"?

The Constructivist said...

Dale, blogger ate my original reply! While there's one 19th-C OED definition of "tolerance" the criteria Deferios might be said to be failing--"the action or practice of tolerating; toleration; the disposition to be patient with or indulgent to the opinions or practices of others; freedom from bigotry or undue severity in judging the conduct of others; forbearance; catholicity of spirit"--I personally don't believe framing the issue in terms of the Deferios' tolerance levels is the best move to make. As you suggest, it involves seeking evidence for others' mental states. What I think is a more productive direction to follow is to explore the tensions between their free-speech rights and the free-speech rights of their counter-protestors.

More on that later, but in the meantime I'll forward your comment to the grad student author of this piece.