Staff Ed: On campus, keep an open mind

By Editorial Board

College students are opinionated, that’s nothing new. At the University of Massachusetts, there are rallies protesting everything from abortion to the gall of the administration to raise fees after $65 million was slashed from its budget.

No, there really isn’t anything that doesn’t inspire upwardly mobile students to develop witty chants and march around campus with poster boards taped to two-by-fours. It’s part of college, and something we all should consider our duty.

Opinions drive this page. Opinions make the United States what it is. Even if you don’t agree with the direction it’s moving at a certain time. For some reason, though, UMass students have become increasingly less tolerant of opinions. Not the popular ones. Hating George Bush is still cool, and anti-establishment girls ‘Heart Pro-Choice Boys.’

But not everyone agrees with those sentiments. There are some UMass students who oppose same-sex marriage and rail against the Roe v. Wade decision. They don’t oppose it because they’re hateful people or because Fox News indoctrinated them. Conservative UMass students march against it because they can and feel it necessary to do so. Some months back, The Daily Collegian ran a staff editorial denouncing the California‘s decision to restrict marriage to one man and one woman, and that still is the stance of our editorial board.

However, as much as we support gay marriage down here, we support The First Amendment even more. A quick trip to our Web site will display some of our more conservative columnists’ thoughts on the issue. Whether or not anyone agrees with them is not the point of their pieces. Their opinions are relevant whether they’re in the majority or not.

The irony of the situation is that the people attacking them are the same people who define themselves as ‘open-minded.’ Being a liberal doesn’t make you open-minded nor does it make you right. It simply means that you have an opinion, and you have every right to express your opinion. But you have to take as much as you give. If you support gay marriage or any other issue and take the time to express it, then you open yourself to criticism and opposing viewpoints. The problem arises when the discourse shifts from issues to personal attacks.

It’s easy to win an argument when resorting to childish name-calling. Few on this campus seem to be at all interested in taking the high road. You’d think they would if only because there’s so little traffic on it.

Now that Barack Obama is the president, conservative pundits have an even greater role to play in American political discourse. It’s their job to keep the Commander in Chief on his toes while he tries to steer the nation out of economic disaster. Naturally, the liberal majority of UMass students won’t listen for a second. Any charge against Obama will be met with accusations of racism. His approval rate is north of 80 percent at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should expect perfection from him. And when the conservatives raise an eyebrow, we shouldn’t ignore what they have to say. It is valid, and it is important.

Part of the reason universities are such great environments for learning is the open forum they provide for their students. Just because the former minority ‘- and we’re not talking about the man’s race ‘- is in the majority doesn’t mean we can stop listening when someone raises a hand.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board.