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