Campus censorship prevents growth

The PostSecret posts were recently removed from the wall in the Hixson Union Building. In their place is a poster with the Winston Churchill quotation, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.” Attached to the poster is a statement written by Brittany Roach, special events coordinator for ASWU. In this she writes that due to several concerns, “the administration asked to have the more offensive secrets removed.”

Her response is as follows: “to maintain the integrity of the project I chose to remove all of them, so as not to censor some.”

I applaud Roach’s decision and response to the situation. It has brought me to question other forms of censorship on our campus, though. Does it exist? Who imposes the filter? Are there benefits? Disadvantages?

The most obvious form of censorship on our campus is Safe Connect. This blocks students from accessing websites deemed inappropriate. Is this wrong? Is it necessary?

There is no clear-cut answer. At the most basic level, it restricts students. The limited access becomes an issue when it prevents access to information for research assignments.

This was an issue for a friend who was unable to access websites with profanity while researching for a Core 350 paper on the use of language in film. Another friend was unable to access a foreign site she needed for a class project. But we must consider another aspect of the issue, is censorship necessary to uphold our Christian heritage? Should we relinquish some of our rights in order to uphold the values of our institution? Does it help to hold one another accountable? It is naturally understood that censorship serves to maintain the values of the university, but does it contradict the residence life mission of growing adults?

The majority of censorship on campus, however, seems to be self-imposed. There is a clear dominant culture on campus with known taboos. Students routinely filter their language and content of speech to operate in accordance to the spoken and unspoken standards. This is worrisome. Lives lived in fear of saying the wrong thing, of being labeled as dirty or below an arbitrary standard is wrong. Our campus cannot be an environment that generates this anxiety. Am I advocating continuous belligerent behavior on campus? Absolutely not, but I think it is necessary to take the time to evaluate the message we are projecting to our peers.

The last half of the Churchill quote is, “courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

This is an area in which we need to improve as a community. Among the secrets posted on the wall were deep and serious issues. These were the voices of individuals dying to tell their stories. There must be a space on our campus for conversations of this nature to be had. But this cannot be limited to a sanctioned program. Cultural diversity advocate Macy Olivas said, “Students will talk about sexuality or racism, but an FRF (Facilities Request Form) has to be filled out first; if it’s not an organized event, the conversation won’t happen.”

If we were willing and able to authentically engage without the need of a Courageous Conversations banner our campus would thrive. We would be a people of honest exploration, of respect and genuine love.

Far too often, issues of respect arise with vulnerability on campus. Students who think and live beyond the reaches of the Whitworth norm are pushed to areas of isolation and questions of belonging on our campus. Issues that arise on our campus are therefore silenced instead of being appropriately addressed. The spectrum of students on our campus is one of its strengths. We cannot allow our backgrounds and preconceptions to threaten its presence.

I believe especially as a Christian community, we must be aware of the tone we set. It is known that hypocrisy runs rampant in the church, but we cannot use this to dismiss our actions, continuing to generate divides. We must actively work against our natural inclination to judge differences. We must strive as a community to push past tolerance toward love, to become a people who are comfortable with honesty.

Haley Atkinson

Reacting responsibly to bin Laden's death

On the evening of May 1, President Barack Obama went on national TV to break the news that Osama bin Laden, the face of international terrorism and mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, had been killed by American special forces after a 10-year manhunt. Aside from a few relatively minor snags, the operation was executed flawlessly. Few would argue the significance of bin Laden’s demise. While his death may very well inspire terrorists to conduct retaliatory attacks, he will no longer be able to serve as a motivating figure for international terrorism. Furthermore, valuable intelligence was seized in the raid on bin Laden’s Pakistani compound that will undoubtedly prove useful in fighting global terrorism. Lastly, the man’s death was a highly symbolic victory for the U.S. However, as Christians it is difficult, but not impossible, to determine the proper position to take on bin Laden’s death.

There have been two primary responses to bin Laden’s death. The initial response was one of euphoric celebration. Writing for the New York Daily News, Irving Dejohn, Joanna Molloy, Matthew Nestel and John Lauinger describe the scene in New York after Obama’s announcement:

“New Yorkers took to the streets Sunday night, rising up in a passionate chorus of patriotic pride over news that America’s most wanted man was dead. People crowded into Times Square and in the streets around Ground Zero, fists pumping and flags waving.”

However, in the days after the announcement, criticism of the celebrations began to arise. Indeed, my Facebook news feed began to fill with references to Ezekiel 33:11: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

The obvious argument was that as Christians we should not rejoice in bin Laden’s death. Some seemed even to question the justness of his death.

Initially, I was torn between the two reactions. I streamed the President’s announcement live from CSPAN and, I have to admit, my initial reaction was one of satisfaction and pride in the excellent work done by the members of Navy SEAL Team Six. Yet, at the same time, I felt guilty about taking pleasure in someone’s death. Upon consideration however, I believe there is a healthy way to look at it.

First, did bin Laden deserve to die? Was his death just? Well, was he responsible for the death of many innocent people? Yes, indeed he was. By any moral measure, bin Laden certainly got what he deserved. Furthermore, reading all of Ezekiel Chapter 33 indicates that, though the Lord desires all to be saved, the wicked will certainly perish if they do not turn from their wicked ways.

Yes, God wanted bin Laden to be saved, and bin Laden could have been saved, despite the gravity of his brutality, had he turned to Christ.

While I can’t say that this didn’t happen, it appears highly unlikely that this was the case. Consequently, from a biblical standpoint, his death was perfectly just.

However, this still does not give us an excuse to rejoice in his death. The real question is, are any of us really better than bin Laden? While we’re quoting scripture, Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

What, if anything, separates any of us from bin Laden? Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”

I think we can recognize that bin Laden’s death made the world a better place and that he certainly deserved to die, and I think we can applaud the bravery and skill of the American armed forces involved in the operation. At the same time we can recognize that the death of anyone apart from Christ is tragic.

Yes, bin Laden was a mass murderer and his death was just. This, however, should cause us to consider the true nature of evil. In light of that, we should consider ourselves, lest we too get what we deserve.

Max Nelsen

The slow but steady erosion of conviction at Whitworth

Our campus’ conception of diversity is slowly but surely eroding everything this university claims to stand for. Don’t burn me at the stake just yet - allow me to explain.

Diversity as a concept is a vital part of a thriving community. Allowing people from all walks of life to have a voice and to have a place to call home is a good, praiseworthy thing - especially when those people have views and values that clash with our own.

I have genuine respect for the efforts Whitworth University has made to increase the level and quality of diversity on campus. Bringing in students of other faiths, nationalities, backgrounds, social classes, etc., is a non-negotiable element of a complete liberal arts education.

Why is this the case? Simply because no one ever learned anything by talking to him- or herself. Fill up a room with similar people and, surprise surprise, they’ll all leave looking about the same as when they went in.

You can’t build bigger biceps without the challenge of a free weight or two. By the same token, we don’t grow as people if we’re not challenged and pushed out of our comfort zone by new experiences, differing viewpoints and foreign lifestyles.

That’s a concept that probably won’t shake up too many people here - we’re a campus that, in general, values diversity of people and opinions. Whitworth FM has a radio show every Thursday where a dedicated conservative and a passionate liberal go head to head in a program called “Civil Disagreement.” And not only are they able to carry out their discussion in a genteel manner, they happen to be close friends off the air. Not something you’d expect to find in the “real world,” where the likes of Glenn Beck rule the airwaves. But we have it here, and it’s a good thing.

However.

I fear that in our passionate pursuit of diversity, we have forgotten, or are starting to forget, our convictions. I fear that we have confused the concept of “tolerance” or even “love” with that of “acceptance.” And I fear that if we become a campus that accepts everything, we will become a campus that stands for nothing.

When I speak of tolerance, I refer to its classic definition and not to the popular, modern definition. By the classic definition, it is possible to tolerate an idea or a person without having to agree. Put in blunt terms, the concept of tolerance is “live and let live.”

In recent years, the meaning has shifted to something more along the lines of “we may disagree, but that doesn’t matter because we’re both right in our own way.”

This modern definition of tolerance falls more in line with my definition of “acceptance,” the idea that personal choices (whether they be about faith, lifestyle, sexuality or anything) can’t be criticized, and the person that does criticize is automatically wrong.

I don’t believe that “different” always means “wrong.” Neither do I believe that I have a complete grasp of what is “right” or “correct,” but there is a standard of Truth that everyone should strive for, regardless of subjective opinions.

The cry often goes up that students who don’t fit the “Whitworth norm” feel like they are not accepted. And while there are some legitimate problems that need to be dealt with (racism and bigotry do happen here, and it’s a tragedy), I have to wonder why, for example, an atheist student who sleeps around and gets high on the weekends expects to feel completely accepted here. Or why a Mormon student would expect to feel no tension at a school that holds to beliefs different than his or her own.

It’s like traveling to another country and demanding the people there to speak English as their primary language. It’s arrogant and insensitive, but more than that, it’s just kind of ridiculous.

Students know what they’re signing up for when they come here. It’s not hidden. This is a Christian university. If students don’t want that, there are three or four state schools within a day’s drive of here that won’t present Christ to you ... all for a fraction of the cost.

This extends beyond the faith debate, as well. Classes like Core 350 present their material via a method I have dubbed the “throw it all against the wall” method. A wide variety of thinkers are brought forth, their ideas laid out … and then left behind. There is little criticism, little examination, and rarely, if ever, a comparison to the views of the book this university claims to be founded on.

Students are implicitly encouraged to take their pick of whichever thinker makes the most sense to them and then run with that. Criticizing that choice is then taboo for faculty and other students.

I recognize that these are generalizations - there are classes and faculty who don’t line up with what I have described above. But regardless, it is still a trend.

Criticism does not have to be a negative thing. Debate should be encouraged. All ideas are not created equal, and if faculty members treat all viewpoints as if they have equal merit, then student development is severely hampered. No student is aided by being allowed to maintain a system of thinking that doesn’t work in the real world.

Whitworth claims to be a place that follows Christ and serves humanity. Sadly, between the blind pursuit of diversity and the rather nonsensical pressure to make all students feel “accepted,” it seems to be becoming less a place that honors Christ, and more one that tacks his name to our literature for the sake of tradition.

Jerod Jarvis

PostSecret censorship an unneccesary overreaction

If you’ve been in the Hixson Union Building recently, you may have noticed that the PostSecret wall has come down. A sign left by special events coordinator Brittany Roach, the campus coordinator for the program, explains that the project was taken down due to “a complaint in The Whitworthian” and concerns from the administration. Alledgedly, Whitworth administration instructed Roach to remove the more offensive secrets from the project; Roach elected to take the entire project down rather than selectively and subjectively censor the voices of some. First, the board would like to make a brief clarification: the complaint referred to on the sign was not in an article authorized or written by a Whitworthian writer. It was a letter to the editor from freshman Daniel Thomas, printed in the April 19 issue. The opinions expressed in the letter to the editor are those of its author and not necessarily those of the members of the editorial board, nor any other staff member of The Whitworthian.

We feel that the response from Whitworth administration is an overreaction and an act of needless censorship.

The PostSecret program has been popular on campus because it provides an outlet for students to voice personal struggles without fear of negative reciprocation. Even voicing something anonymously can be an important, therapeutic first step on the path to dealing with painful issues.

The confessions through the project served an important secondary service – bringing awareness to the fact that Whitworth students have problems, too. It seems like an obvious statement, but it can be easily forgotten, especially in light of the face the university portrays to the public. Students, especially new students, often have the conception that everyone at Whitworth has a good life, is a Christian, doesn’t have real struggles, etc.

The realization that problems like sexual and substance abuse, pornography, depression, religious struggles and a wide variety of other issues that exist on campus can be uncomfortable, but it is crucial that students and faculty alike do not close their eyes to the struggles of people around them.

It seems one of the primary reasons for the actions taken against PostSecret was concern over the impression the project might give to visiting prospective freshman.

Issues of hypocrisy and white-washing our image aside, we feel that censoring and removing the board is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

We suggest that instead of censoring PostSecret, the project be moved to an area highly frequented by current students, but not as much by prospective freshman. One likely place would be next to the Post Office in the HUB. It’s not a location at which prospective freshman have any reason to spend much time, but full-time students are often there checking mail.

Another possibility would be to move the project to an online format, though at the cost of visibility and public awareness that foot traffic brings. A possible solution to this problem could be the placement of select PostSecret confessions in a highly visible area as a way to promote students to go to the website.

However, this could have the potential to raise issues of censorship and selectivity once again, so caution should be used if this solution is implemented.

Finally, we would like to offer a suggestion to the PostSecret program. This board feels that the program, while a wonderful concept, needs to include some method of follow-up with those that leave confessions on the board. Follow-up need not be mandatory; but we feel that while confession is an important first step in dealing with serious problems, it cannot be left there. If there was an advertised channel by which contributors could get help, if needed, the program could serve as an even more effective means to improve the lives of students involved. Providing mentors or counseling, or a support group that could be available to those who contribute to the project would be an improvement on the current program.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is made up of six editors.

Staying Competitive or Falling Behind: The Importance of High Speed Rails

The United States of America is in dire need of long-term, affordable, safe, and energy efficient transportation.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that the U.S. can no longer afford to keep feeding her oil addiction.  Although this problem is a large and complex one, high speed rail can be a key piece of the puzzle.  Europeans and the Japanese have been enjoying the benefits that high speed rail has to offer for decades, yet efforts to establish high speed rail lines in the United States have been universally unsuccessful.  Despite our past failures to adopt high speed rail, President Obama’s support of high speed rail lines to link Americans everywhere is a promising one.  President Obama envisions a network of rails that would link 80% of Americans via high speed rail lines by 2030 at the cost of $500 billion, a fraction of what is currently being wasted on our outdated, overcrowded, and dilapidated highway system.

There are extremely clear benefits to establishing a high speed rail network in the United States that make it easy to recommend.  High speed rail is far more efficient than passenger jets or personal automobiles, in terms of energy, time, and resources.  High speed rail lines do not require foreign imported oil and are far more environmentally friendly than other popular forms of transportation.  The U.S. High Speed Rail Association estimates that more than 2.8 billion gallons of expensive gasoline are wasted on American roads every year by idling vehicles.  In addition, the U.S. loses $87.2 billion a year to automotive gridlocks, which in turn leads to Americans spending 4.2 billion hours a year sitting in traffic unnecessarily.  A high speed network of trains could reduce these gridlocks and preserve precious time and resources.

Not only would the establishment of a high speed rail network reduce our dependency on foreign oil, it would also take cars off of the highway which would reduce traffic deaths and congestion, and would increase the reliability of the transportation system.  High speed trains are far more reliable than traveling by air, and would prevent passengers from being stuck in airports facing delays, long security lines, and cancelled flights.

Additionally, the construction of a high speed rail network in the U.S. could create as many as 150,000 new jobs and lead to the development of $19 billion per year in new businesses.  Many of these jobs would be in the construction industry that was one of the hardest hit by the ongoing economic recession in the United States.  These jobs are desperately needed and would greatly benefit Americans all across our nation.

In the last few years, China has spent over $360 billion to develop a new national high speed rail network, which has created millions of jobs in China and led to the development of 2,000 new miles of rail networks.  If the United States wants to stay competitive in the world economy, reduce its dependency on foreign oil, and improve the efficiency of its transportation system, high speed rail lines are a must.

However, it is important that we do not become lost in the numbers, statistics, and dollar counts—no matter how compelling they may be.  Ultimately, it comes down to the everyday people whose lives will be transformed by efficient, safe, affordable transport.  What matters is the human factor.  It’s not about gauges, engines, and crossings; it’s about fellow citizens, friends, and families.

High speed rails will create thousands of jobs, providing welcome relief to a multitude of people who find themselves trapped in a currently fallow job market. Our nation’s unhealthy reliance on foreign oil will be alleviated considerably, and our children’s children will experience a healthier planet and breathe cleaner air.  Families torn apart by distance will be able to reunite affordably, without the expense and inconvenience associated with flight.  The hardworking commuter will reclaim countless, precious hours which would otherwise be frittered away in gridlock traffic.  Auto collisions will claim far fewer loved ones when they are seated comfortably in trains.  Millions will be given the opportunity to crisscross the states, watching the beautiful countryside fly by their windows.

America has a strong, prestigious railroad legacy.  For a hundred years, our country was held together by railroad tracks and spikes.  The construction of high speed rail lines will be the crowning culmination of this fine tradition, and we as the American people will benefit and our lives and relationships will be enriched.

By Peter Dolan, Pierre Biscaye, and Taylor Zajicek

In Every Town

Last semester I wrote an article regarding the decline in Whitworth’s music scene. This article was before the famous all-ages Empyrean was closed because the owners just weren’t making money. From playing in many local venues over the last couple years, I know, just as well as the venue owners, underage shows don’t bring in the dough.  Even if they bring in more people, the bar is the money maker. However, in true indie fashion, it isn’t about the money. And yet, it is about the money. If the venue can’t make money to support itself, it can’t pay the band, and further, can’t even book the band. Something has to give, and for Spokane, it was its most popular all-ages venue. Music is something that everyone in general, and the youth especially, value. We listen to it when we’re sad, when we’re happy, when we need a pick-me-up, when we’re sleeping, when we’re doing homework, when we’re driving, when we want to dance, or when we are simply doing nothing at all. For a lot of us, music is a constant part of our lives. I think that because of universality of music, it is important that the youth have an opportunity to engage and be a part of the music scene, which is definitely difficult when your town’s music scene is relatively non-existent. Art in all forms is a way for kids to escape, and as we all know, sometimes you just need to get away. Music in this regard has been a relatively untapped source. Many are turned off of going to music for comfort because they are not musicians. However, if kids were exposed and introduced to music, they would find that the catharsis musicians experience while playing, can be the same as someone who is just listening.

An inspiring book was brought to my attention by a writer from another publication who read my previous article. The book is called “In Every Town, An All Ages Manualfesto.” In this book, author Shannon Stewart, co-founder of The VERA Project in Seattle writes, “It is easy, and even clichéd, to make the argument that music is a universal language that permeates everyone’s experience. It’s also true”(xi). Growing up in a neighborhood where her three options for past times were either sports, God-related activities, or drinking, drugs, and gangs, she openly admits that if you didn’t belong to the first two, the latter was your only option.

Stewart understands the importance of music, especially for the youth. Bursting with energy, our youth need an outlet, and they don’t all need the same one. Her book is a guide to everyone, no matter what your age, on how to create a creative and successful environment for more than just music. She breaks down what it takes to harvest, promote, and create a music scene. Projects such as The VERA Project are dedicated to understanding and working with the youth, without trying to cash in.

We put a lot of blame (me too!) on our cities, our counties, our states, for not providing the youth with other outlets, for not supporting music venues, and for blaming venues for violence, drugs, alcohol etc. However, Stewart takes a different stand with her book and instead puts the ball in the youth’s court. By creating this guide to get involved with music, she is empowering youth (and adults!) all over the nation to make a change. All of a sudden, the ball is in the youth’s court, and they can do what they please with it.

I say go Stewart! If anything is going to change the music scene in any town, the answer is to be proactive. If you can create a space that is a safe environment, is affordable for young kids, and college students, and also treats the bands right, you can be successful. I know it’s easier said than done, but it isn’t impossible either. Creating a venue is one step, while harvesting a music scene in your town is another.

In order for a music scene to flourish, the environment, as aforementioned, must be conducive and inspiring to other artists. You’d be surprised how much talent goes unnoticed at Whitworth, and how many people lock themselves in the practice rooms in our music building so that no one will hear them. Once a place is established, then other people can start getting inspired to share their talents as well. Even with the Empyrean closing, there are still many ways to get involved and support the music scene. A good first step is to branch out your musical tastes, and support local bands, go to a show of someone who you have never heard of. A music scene depends on musicians as much, if not more, as it depends on the people.

You can get a copy of “In Every Town” at  http://www.theconnextion.com/aamp/aamp_index.cfm Or at the local independent bookstore!

Story by Andre Gjefle