Amid the invitation of Gov. Rick Snyder as a commencement speaker at NMU, students and faculty alike have spoken out against his coming.
Mostly citing concerns regarding the Flint water crisis, many have worked to create the impression that there is an outrage, with an editorial in The North Wind earlier this month saying that, “…the student body’s voice is screaming against Snyder.”
Although some students may really feel this way, the reality is that this is largely disingenuous. The campus is not in an uproar. Most students couldn’t care less. And, some students actually support the potential commencement speaker, myself being one of them.
To blame Gov. Snyder wholly for the Flint water crisis is, as PolitiFact points out, an oversimplification of the issue and a partisan spin meant to inspire Democratic opposition to Republicans.
The fact is, the problem was due to a failure of government on all levels, with blame falling upon many officials from both parties. The Flint Water Advisory Task Force, a state commissioned group put together to investigate what happened in Flint, concluded the primary responsibility was with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
So, bearing this in mind, why does Snyder get bashed over the head with the issue? It is clearly meant to overshadow his accomplishments for our state.
Since 2010, the number of private-sector jobs has grown by 500,000, ranking Michigan first in the Great Lakes region and sixth in the nation. Michigan’s per capita income is also growing faster than the national average, ranking first in the Great Lakes region and seventh nationally.
The state’s population has began increasing in the last 5 years, following the decline during the recession, and Michigan also has the highest net in-migration of residents with a bachelor’s degree in the nation. This is all evidence of a flourishing economy and state, which Snyder inherited in shambles. His policies have directly contributed to the rebuilding of Michigan. As opposed to a criticism of Snyder’s job performance accounting for the “outrage,” it’s much more likely it’s a general hostility to a conservative speaker coming.
This is evident in a quote from the Nov. 9 opinion article by Martin Reinhardt and Marcus Robyns, “We live in a dispiriting time when a boastful misogynist, racist and narcissistic bully occupies the White House and neo-fascism is on the rise. The Snyder invitation is a symptom of this larger disease that we must confront with strong and united determination.”
What exactly is this “larger disease?” Snyder is a mainstream republican and wasn’t even elected on a wave of Trumpism. To attribute Drumpf’s attitudes and behavior to Snyder is intellectually dishonest and disgustingly partisan. It’s clear this disease they’re referring to is conservatism.
Often, similar displays of opposition present themselves when mainstream right-wing speakers give talks at universities. There was Middlebury’s shut-down of Charles Murray, UCLA and Claremont’s opposition to Heather MacDonald, Ann Coulter’s struggle at Berkeley and many more.
These days, being a conservative seems to be enough for people to declare a speaker contrary to the university’s values. Here at NMU, and all other colleges for that matter, our greatest value should be striving for intellectual diversity. Those who don’t embrace this critical value have no place at an institution of higher learning.
The entire premise of diversity is that different people with different experiences can add to the academic conversation. Yet, it seems many college students are hell-bent on blocking out the conservative perspective.
To silence a voice is to rob the human race. Either what a speaker says is reasonable, or it’s demonstrably false and will help reaffirm the counter position, in both cases strengthening truth. This is a classical liberal belief that should be upheld by anybody who believes in free speech.
To the administration, faculty and student body, I plead you, do not bow to the heckling of the boisterous, noisy few.