OCRL Encourages Respect, Tolerance

To the Editors:

Oberlin preaches tolerance of individuals and groups, but recently, we, the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians, as a club have seriously had to question the true tolerance of the Oberlin community. Responses to the climate debate and other recent demonstrations have shown a lack of respect for other people’s beliefs and rights.

First, we would like to recognize and thank the administration of Oberlin for allowing speakers such as Dr. Patrick Michaels and Dr. Judith Curry, who do not hold the same views as the majority of the Oberlin community, the opportunity to speak. It shows that the administration is confident enough in its own beliefs and is thus willing to entertain arguments from other camps of thought.

With members of OCRL on the Oberlin Illuminate Debate Series committee, we believe it is important to mention that we also were not happy with the outcome of the debate. The purpose of the debate was not to debate whether or not global warming was occurring, but rather to debate the severity of climate change and what the speakers believe to be the best policy concerning the climate. As a committee, we recognize that we should have investigated the debaters in more depth in order to have more of a discussion; however, four years ago, Dr. Judith Curry would have taken a much more liberal stance on the issue. Due to new science concerning the climate, Dr. Curry has changed her beliefs on the severity of climate change over the past four years.

OCRL believes Dr. Curry might have been more a more beneficial speaker for the Oberlin community than Dr. Michaels. A lot can be learned listening to a renowned scientist in her field talk about how she has followed current science and has thus altered her beliefs to certain degrees. It shows how true science grows and progresses. The slight paradigm shift that Dr. Curry experienced is exactly what Thomas Kuhn, a physicist and philosopher of science, was describing in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. To silence such people stifles progress within society.

A group of students from our community made a call to organize and disrupt future events that do not feed their already established beliefs. As students, it is our right to not believe either scientist. Furthermore, we believe it is our responsibility and job as students to first become educated on matters, and then evaluate the validity of all arguments, and finally determine our own beliefs based on what we have learned. In the spirit of debate and free exchange of ideas, we would like to extend an open invitation for any students to give input and help put on constructive debates.

As members of OCRL, we could have easily have gone to a school such as Hillsdale College, Rush Limbaugh’s token college in Michigan. However, we each initially chose Oberlin for one reason or another and have all grown to like and respect the diversity and opportunity Oberlin offers. We do not protest or call to disrupt every event that we do not believe to be credible or that goes against our established beliefs. In fact, if one were to ask, the majority of the club’s members will admit to changing some of their established political beliefs through the critical examination of contrasting arguments, thus resulting in progress and growth.

OCRL is challenging the Oberlin community not to just preach tolerance, but to engage all groups of people and camps of thought from a critical perspective. We do not believe we can or wish to be able to fully change one’s thinking; instead, we would rather have individuals challenge and create their own beliefs after being educated by a large spectrum of different camps of thought.

Instead of calling to disrupt future events or rudely interrupting convocation speakers brought in by the college, why don’t we attend all events with the neutral perspective that we are students? It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Many times, the journey to a belief is much more important than the end result. While we may not change what we or others believe or stand for, at least we can all become aware of the beliefs of those around us. This is truly the spirit of a liberal arts education.

–The Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians