Linda Sarsour, a social activist and Women’s March organizer, was invited to speak at UConn women’s center on Wednesday, March 7. While the event was cancelled at the last minute due to weather conditions, it triggered a great deal of controversy on campus. The event’s main focus was women’s rights and advocacy for gender equality, so Sarsour, a co-Chair of the 2017 Women’s March, was a well-suited speaker to host. It is important to recognize and “emphasize her progressive bona fides,” but to also recognize that disapproving of her advocacy does not make an individual opposed to all of her views. Sarsour’s relatively popular views regarding the women’s march and against racially profiling terrorism were not the reason for controversy but her advocacy toward more sensitive political topics.
Most of the disagreement with Sarsour comes from her aggressive anti-Israel beliefs, which is highly likely to directly offend or threaten Israeli students and Jewish life on campus. Taking into account the bold anti-semitic incidents taken on campus, especially one that took place in September 2017 near the Hillel house. A car drove by a student near Hillel on campus and the girl sitting in the back seat yelled derogatory comments at a student wearing a kippah.
With aggressive encounters like this ocurring, it is important that the university’s administration ensure that every student feels safe and comfortable when a speaker with radical views, like Sarsour, is invited to speak. Similarly to Ben Shapiro, views held by Sarsour pose a threat to students which should be taken seriously by the university. If administration made the decision to send out emails offering the full support of mental health services with the arrival of Shapiro, they should have done the same for Sarsour. Otherwise, the university is presenting a bias in the support it is offering to the student body, and while some students feel safe and welcomed, some may feel even more threatened.
Expressing radical views should not be banned or avoided on campus but fairly conducted to optimize student safety on campus. With this in mind, it is also very natural for people to be offended by many political views, especially in a college environment. The term “snowflake,” for example, is a strategy used by radical speakers to de-legitimize the offense taken by people who disagree with and are threatened by their beliefs. Despite popular belief, this notion goes both ways, liberal and conservatives. The conflict between these two groups has grown beyond political discrepancies and toward outright detestation of one another, which inevitably leads to labeling and profiling individuals who take offense from a given argument.
Instead of accusing those who are offended by a given view of being too sensitive, and labeling them “snowflakes,” people with opposing views should focus on advocating their beliefs without attacking the opposition. In reality, a person cannot be distinguished as a “snowflake” because everyone can take offense from anything. If people who are threatened by radical arguments are “snowflakes,” then everyone is a “snowflake”. A person that is not threatened by anything simply does not exist, and a belief is not a belief if it is universally agreed or disagreed upon. Rather than labeling those who take offense from certain radical beliefs, institutions should ensure safety despite the presence of radicalism and that individuals who are threatened are fully supported and have a place where their voices are heard.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.