Debate on campus must go beyond labels

To the editor:

Kirchick’s transparent argument (“Campus left silences opposing views” 11/12) ostensibly criticizing the “left” (as though liberal or left is a monolithic stereotype that fits neatly into a paradigm of anti-establishment, anti-Israel, and so on) for silencing debate on campus, really serves as a mechanism for his attack on some of the protests raised by dissenting individuals and organizations on campus. In fact, the CampusTruth ads were condemned by multiple organizations, some of whose missions are very different, and the criticism of Pipes in the YDN was not just “sophomoric theatrics.” However, Kirchick only mentions these, because it allows him to retaliate in the spurious accusation that the “left” suppresses debate on campus. The most dangerous aspect of his piece, and the most ironic given his own proclaimed identification with viewpoints that transcend the political spectrum, is that labeling political perspectives with broad titles like “left” and “right,” is reductionist and constructs models that limit healthy debate. Healthy debate can lead to productive dialogue only when people reject broad labels, and approach their peers on this campus with an open mind and respect for their positions.

Emily Scharfman ’05

November 12, 2003