Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another Open Letter to Alma College

Dear Alma College:
Recently, I expressed my opinion on Carson’s visit to Alma College. I’ve received several responses on the issue. Most have been supportive and encouraging. A few have been the voice of opposition. With one exception, my detractors have been men my father’s age who have expressed in one way or another that I should be a good little girl and keep my mouth shut—that’s never going to happen. I will not sit silently as I receive hate mail meant to terrorize me. I’m not going to be silenced like Alma College silenced its LGBTQIA and feminist Scots when they allowed Dr. Benjamin Carson to speak.

I treasure free speech and open dialogue. The College’s handling of Carson’s visit did not, in any way, encourage free speech and open dialogue. In fact, the situation actively discouraged it. Specifically, we were all forbidden to talk about Carson’s politics, including Carson himself. By having Carson speak, yet forbidding open dialogue to comply with FEC rules, the College became a wet blanket on the First Amendment. In other words, by having Carson speak under such restrictions, the College censored it’s own students, faculty, and staff. Censorship is not something I stand for as a professor. Censorship only prevents our students and future leaders from becoming thoughtful, analytical, and critical thinkers capable of making their own decisions and articulating their positions.

It’s worth taking a quick detour here to note that neither Carson nor the College held up their ends of the bargain. Carson did not hold up his end of this deal when he rallied the crowd with the clearly political statement that marriage is between a man and a woman. In addition, Alma College also faulted by allowing political questions at the end of the talk. The situation gave neither side justice.  

The College further became an impediment to our First Amendment rights when students were required to go to Carson’s talk. Not only did this situation serve as a roadblock to students exercising their right to free speech by boycotting the talk, it also created a situation in which many Scots were made to feel less than human. By making Carson’s talk a course requirement, LGBTQIA and feminist students were, in effect, forced to sit in a room and listen to a man say that marriage is between a man and a woman, yet they were forbidden from speaking out or questioning such a position.  To add insult to injury, these students also had to witness an auditorium full of people give Carson a standing ovation in response to his dehumanizing statement. As a developmental psychologist, I will tell you in no uncertain terms that these types of situations directly contribute to feelings of alienation and thoughts of suicide. As such, it is this choice that the College made that saddens me most and it is this situation in particular that led me to write my first open letter to Alma College demanding an apology and reparation. My position has not changed. The College should apologize for the hurt that it caused its LGBTQIA and feminist Scots, and a genuine effort to repair the relationships that it damaged is in order.

In closing, I’ll speak directly to my new “fan club.” You can threaten me, degrade me, attack my qualifications, and tattle on me all you want, but you will not bully me into submission. You might even be successful in your attempts to get me fired, but you will not rob me of my right to speak up when LGBTQIA and feminist Scots have been dehumanized and censored.

Dr. Brandi Stupica
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Alma College


  1. I don't at all agree with your diagnosis of Dr. Carson's visit to Alma (in fact I think it was perhaps the most engaged conversation our campus has had since I've been working here). But I would like to say for the benefit of anyone else who might comment here that YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO EXPRESS THIS OPINION and I APPRECIATE YOUR CONCERN ON BEHALF OF ALMA STUDENTS WHO FELT MARGINALIZED BY THIS EVENT. I also would like to CONDEMN ANYONE WHO WOULD HARASS, BELITTLE, OR OTHERWISE TRY TO SILENCE YOU!

  2. And by the way, commenters, you should refer to this writer as DR. STUPICA.

  3. Dr. Stupica,
    I would like to question the validity of your insinuation that requiring students to attend Dr. Carson's speech is an action against any individual's rights? If I am correct, there were no professors using force in the process; the students were for academic purposes simply required to attend and reflect on the speaker's presentation. The 'logical, evidence-based, scholarly' work you spoke of in your address to the college is essentially what you are saying suppressed a large portion of the Alma College student body. In my experience, which is limited as I only know a portion of people who had mandatory attendance, not a single professor required the students to enjoy the speech or agree with Dr. Carson's ideologies. In my opinion being a college student is a job in itself (an expensive one that is); in my life no job has gone without unwanted tasks or duties. From my perspective going to the event was a part of many of the students' job, and in a job there surely are consequences for not fulfilling duties and expectations. As I stated before, this event may have been optional but a student who shirks his/her scholarly duties as given by their instructor's must face a consequence--but never the less attendance remained optional to each student.
    For sake of the college's name political agenda was intended to be avoided (which we knew was not going to happen). The separation between subjective political beliefs and objective science-- which Dr. Carson was paid to speak of-- were exclusively stated before the speaker even arrived on campus; however, the Alma College student body continued to pose questions in the domain of politics. The students chose to question Dr. Carson out of curiosity, out of a passion for knowledge, out of a quest for validation or fallacy in their own beliefs. The students publicly disobeyed prior mandates to hear a man's opinion on a controversial issue: the students showed a general interest and interest in their own education of political views (whether they be right or wrong).
    On a personal note I do support gay marriage and I side with many of the feminist principles; I do not know more than the average student about feminism, but I hold firm that "gender equality" would be a more suitable title for the set of beliefs which you so closely hold-- but that argument is for another day.
    Dr. Stupica, in promoting such a strong anti-Carson attitude I believe your actions in this ordeal to be more "anitithetical to the values of the college than anything": but, I suppose you were just using freedom of speech--correct? The same freedom which you sought to strip from Dr. Carson at Alma College. I hope you see the conundrum with all this. All in all, I do respect you beccause you stood up for what you believe in, regardless of my opposing belief.

    -Alma college student