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Opinion

Joking compromises university reputation

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September 20, 2007

I’m sure many of you were witness to the spectacle on the steps of the University Center last Wednesday, and by now you know what, the fuss was all about. Once again, religious fanatics arrived to battle students over issues such as homosexual lifestyles, abstinence, smoking, drugs and drinking, not to mention the values of religious fervor. I didn’t stay long, but I heard enough to be disgusted.

But let me say right here and now that I am not about to take issue with what was said. I disagreed with both parties. But this is not my issue.

My issue is with the fact that, while both parties in the “debate” clearly exercised their rights to free speech, neither one exercised any respect of that right. Instead of having a lively debate for opposing viewpoints to be shared and discussed, we had preachers shouting, students screaming, pirates flaunting and porn magazines flying, all amidst praise of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”

It was infuriating to see my fellow students get up in front of that crowd and talk as loudly as they could about something so ridiculous as the “Spaghetti Monster” and blurt comments that had no point other than to distract listeners and disrupt speakers. Sure it’s entertaining, but it was rude, childish and entirely uncalled for.

I have heard students say that what happened last Wednesday didn’t matter, because no one wants to listen to anyone preach religion these days. I find that hard to believe. Out of the thousands of students that attend this school, how can anyone assume that not one person would actually want to listen to what these people have to say? And if one person wants to listen, who do we think we are to prevent that one person from hearing what he or she wants to hear? After all, college is supposed to be about becoming your own person. Who said that person has to love sex?

As I said, I don’t care what either side said. I do care that some students here would stoop so low as to completely disregard something as simple as civility and respect.

So what if you don’t agree. So what if these men come here every year, screaming death and damnation to everyone who walks by. Let them bear the burden of looking the fool when no one pays them any mind. Also, give those students who want to listen the opportunity to hear what there is to be said.

It really upsets me that this is how we choose to represent our campus and our community. It’s not just a joke. This was a gathering on state property, in plain view of anyone who happened to walk by, whether that be students, locals, visitors to the area, or even children. And it did attract enough attention to warrant the presence of two public safety officers.

Here at River Falls we have an advantage-one that I fear most students fail to appreciate: we are a little-known university. While that does give us a lot more freedom to act with hardly any thought to our reputation, it also means that we have the room to establish a reputation.

Our little school has already crossed state borderlines with last year’s newspaper burning incident. Do we really want to add to that image? College is supposed to be the final stepping stone into the working world, and future employers do consider the school their applicants come from. Do we really want the providers of our future careers to assume that we are disrespectful, inconsiderate and closed to differing ideals?

Katrina Styx is a student at UW-River Falls.