College students must command respect through more civil speech

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It is not a surprise to see most college students outraged when a professor at Southern Connecticut State University was placed on leave after using the N-word. While I understand these students are upset and their emotions are high, it is more upsetting to me how they are addressing issues like these.

President Joe Bertolino of our university beautifully stated, “We combat speech we do not like with civil and respectful speech” at a Feb. 8 open forum on social justice in the Adanti Student Center. I realized that nowhere in the president’s remarks does it say that it is acceptable for anyone to raise their voices, scream over people that are voicing any opinions, and use profanity towards others in order to combat speech we do not like. It is simply childish behavior that strengthens the stereotype of college students being “whiny” and “entitled.”

Sure, people have a First Amendment right to act how they want. However, people also have a right to suffer the consequences of the way they act in a society that expects decency. The most recent evidence of such childish behavior was the recent CNN Town Hall. Conservative speakers were talking only to have audience members of the opposite political party screaming at them. What are we teaching our children when they see behavior like this?

For me, as a future preschool teacher, I do not want my students to make the mistake that my generation is making in a currently divided society. This mistake is lacking communication skills in order to have civil and respectful conversations with other people that have opinions they might disagree with. These skills include learning how to listen when other people are speaking without interrupting, speaking in a calm voice, asking questions instead of making statements, and being able to understand where others are coming from.

These skills should have been taught in early elementary school. Unfortunately for most people, especially students at my college, these skills have yet to be mastered.

I wish to see a society of college students, teachers, and professors that can communicate civilly when having conversations with people they disagree with. The N-word conversation is no exemption from the many uncomfortable topics that have come up in our society that need to be addressed — both civilly and respectfully.

Specifically, if college students are demanding social justice and want society to listen and take them seriously, they need to know that the ugliness of not handling uncomfortable situations maturely should not become a step on the slippery slope that erodes the social justice reform that is desperately needed.

Drew Michael McWeeney, 22, is an Early Childhood Education major and a teacher candidate at Southern Connecticut State University.


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