Although I disagree with much of Aaron Sibarium’s ’18 most recent column (“The real case for Calhoun,” Dec. 07, 2016), I do respect some of his other contributions to the question of renaming Calhoun College. This piece went too far, however, by personally attacking the protesters and their principles.
Sibarium writes that students involved in the protest let their emotions rule over “principle.” Furthermore, Sibarium writes that protesters substituted “crude emotivism for logical argument.” He, as many others have done, characterizes the movement as a simple confrontation between principle and feeling, head and heart. In order to delegitimize serious claims and criticisms, Sibarium has stratified a false paradigm where feeling and logic are mutually exclusive.
Is it illogical to ask for equal treatment? Is it illogical to ask classmates to respect each other’s dignity? Is it illogical to want Yale to be safe for every individual, regardless of skin color? These protests were not emotional responses — this movement is a deeply principled, explicitly mature move for racial justice at Yale. Whether feelings are the cause or context to our arguments does not undermine the validity of our claims. When students protested at Yale, it was not just emotional. It is a protest against inequality, injustice and the undemocratic.
Sibarium disregards the principles of student protesters. But he also demeans serious theories and politics of race as mere “emotivism.” Sibarium should know that his selective choice of philosophers in this discussion does not go unnoticed. Should he consider political philosophy and ethics of philosophers such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Patricia Collins, June Jordan and even David Hume, perhaps he would see the validity in the belief that experience and politics cannot be uncoupled. If not, perhaps he would understand that — even in a purely rational framework of morality — Yale student protesters have pointed out the violation of “ideals” of equality and justice. Either way, each interpretation should be respected as they are both principled.
Ultimately, Sibarium attempts to diagnose a movement without truly understanding it. Aaron writes: “The Never Calhoun movement gained steam on little more than catchy slogans and childish sobriquets.” This comment denigrates a historic outpouring of love for individuals marginalized on this campus. The principles of justice, equality and love are at the very core of the Yale protests. By denying the veracity of these principles and the experience of thousands, Aaron implicitly denies the humanity and well-being of over half of his fellow students.
In his piece “Learning to Be Good” (Jan. 12, 2015), Sibarium wrote, “Moral education, then, transcends the study of Korsgaard and Parfit. A true moral education forces us to question every choice … it concerns not only how we think, but how we act.” Per his own advice, I ask that Sibarium reevaluate his moral judgments on this movement and the individuals involved. We all mustn’t simply pontificate, but feel and love deeply to make this campus and country better for everyone.
Malina simard-halm is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .