In her column about unconventional intoxication methods, Sarah Sanders sparked conversations on the Web. This week, she’s addressing and questioning the controversy.
After reading the responses to the last issue of my column, my first thought was, “Fantastic!” The very apparent revulsion of my readers indicates to me that I did exactly what I set out to do: use real and current situations to make my readers squirm. Several claim there was no redeeming value in coverage of anal beer bongs and vodka tampons, but maybe they just haven’t tried it.
However, I want to make clear that I appreciate these comments, and I took them into consideration. The critics who really got to me were those who questioned how the column topic was relevant to Temple and its students. They’re right; I made no effort to question the “experts” as I had promised. I received additional criticism for my lack of school spirit. I’m making Temple look bad by implying that this behavior is commonplace.
These are not my intentions, so I’m determined to clean up my act in this issue. I decided to investigate a virtue that Temple can really stand behind: diversity.
Students are well aware of the endless praise the university gives itself for being one of the most diverse campuses in the nation.
Junior criminal justice major Kami Mattioli, who largely opposed my last issue, understands why the element of diversity could be appealing to prospective students.
“No one single group is isolated, nor is another alienated, and theoretically, everyone’s happy with his or her ability to formulate his or her own opinions,” she explained.
The trouble with diversity is that it inherently encompasses issues that some may consider inappropriate for classroom discussion, social conversation or a student newspaper.
“Diversity works in multiple ways,” Mattioli said.
Indeed it does; appreciating a diverse population means appreciating everyone for how they are different. But sometimes, difference makes people ill at ease. You may have heard religion and politics are two things you should never bring up in polite society – or else you’re taking the risk of being offended or offending.
I’ll agree with the first one. But you cannot stop people from discussing their politics. Political party banter has become incredibly popular, and people have become incredibly stubborn when it comes to “switching sides.” Thus, I disagree that politics remains a taboo topic for conversation, as you don’t really run the danger of offending anybody anymore. You may get into a heated discussion, but in the end, I’m sure you’ll come out the winner.
Religion, however, is another story. Junior [major] Cody Long is president of the Religious Studies Club on campus. He suggested religion is touchy because people are reminded of their mortality.
“To attack, even indirectly through the notion of religion, a person’s mortality clearly makes people uncomfortable,” Long explained. He also added religion as a topic of discussion leads to “big questions” that may not have answers, which can make religion “highly personal.”
Additionally, the “religion and politics” adage makes its out-datedness clear as it omits topics like sexuality or race. Although I could not seem to get a response from a professor of race studies, the president of the Queer Student Union, senior political science and anthropology major Keith Davis, was able to sit down with me. Regarding diverse sexuality, the topic necessitates a discussion of what some might consider non-normative.
“Homosexuality is taboo because of the culture we’ve been raised in,” Davis said. He added that people avoid the issue out of fear that they would be viewed as homosexual. Davis explained that his ideal social atmosphere would be that where students did not have to confront the fear of social exile for being gay, or talking about gay culture.
“Being LGBT should never have a negative effect on your life,” he said. Davis explained that this particular atmosphere is what QSU strives to create.
So why do diverse topics make people so uncomfortable?
“While Temple prides itself on being accepting of all different points of view, I personally don’t believe it’s ever a good idea to universally portray all Temple students as sharing a certain mindset,” Mattioli said. Regarding university publications, she advised against these “taboo” topics, as we don’t know who might be reading.
My next question: When is the appropriate time to discuss these topics?
Davis suggested that if there is no designated time or place to discuss them, perhaps any time or place has the potential to be.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Mattioli added. “I don’t consider writing about race, sexuality and religion as completely out of line, but I do think that the content should have some redeeming social value, as dictated by the standards of the community of which it represents.”
Perhaps I should have taken my interviewee’s advice and kept anal beer bongs and vodka tampons out of The Temple News. But, I’m thinking given the activity, the community it represents does not have high standards anyway.
Sarah Sanders can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.