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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Campus free speech important, but cannot proliferate hate

As the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of Madison, we made the deliberate decision as a body to not protest an invited conservative speaker, Jordan Peterson.

Despite this decision, we will continue to be vigilant in our defense of student power. We resolve to defend student voices and hold our university’s rich tradition of progressive activism sacred.

As such, even without a protest, we would be remiss in our duty to defend student values if we didn’t address Peterson’s ideas directly.

Catapulted to fame by fighting anti-discrimination law in his home country of Canada, he hides under the banner of “free speech” to shield his refusal to use the pronouns of his students and colleagues, making a mockery of one of our most sacred rights by claiming it protects him from having to respect those he works with and for, or that the start of dictatorship is a professor’s employers mandating proper behavior in a professional setting, something they are well within their rights to do.

To Peterson, liberty does not start with the freedom to be who you are, with the protection of those often and tragically targeted by violence, abuse and prejudice, but rather with the freedom for him to force unwanted labels and identities on whomever he wants to, as though others’ lives and the personal truths they come to college to accept and let shine are secondary to the convenience of his willful ignorance.

Now that the students of UW-Madison have honored him with the opportunity to speak at our place of learning, will the self-proclaimed defender of free speech talk about the right to protest that is being trampled? Will he talk about how lawmakers shamefully feud with students or attack programs that offend their sensibilities, will he address the slashes to our budget, the war on higher education by our administration?

One would hope. One would hope that he would refuse to indulge in the tired propaganda of smearing colleges as hotbeds of “Neo-Marxist” indoctrination, a word used by people like him to describe things that have nothing to do with Marx and everything to do with respecting minorities’ rights to live without a society that shames them. One would hope he would apologize for tarring the needs of trans people as great concessions that attack the foundation of society, apologize for being an unwitting accessory to a campaign that attacks our beloved institution, or that he would recognize the robust conservative community on campus that invited him, or be aware that the campus climate survey showed conservative students as feeling more comfortable and safe than LGBT students, and not mouth tired and absurd lies about how UW-Madison is a place where the right is oppressed or silenced.

Then again, one would have hoped that Young Americans for Liberty would have respected the transgender community and never brought Peterson here to begin with, or that they would never choose a man who claims "Frozen" is feminist political propaganda as a mouthpiece to represent their ideals.

We, the Legislative Affairs Committee, understand and respect the rights of students to speak freely and to invite speakers to offer new perspectives, even conservative perspectives. But we will always fight for our campus’ values and students, we will not support those who ostracize and disrespect minorities, nor let the lie that this discrimination affirms human rights go unchallenged.

If individuals would like an opposing event to attending during the time of Mr. Peterson’s presentation, the Equity and Inclusion committee will be holding a safe space in Education L196 on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

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