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Heterodox Academy Executive Director Visited LB to Talk About The Importance of Various Perspectives

Photo by Laura Lalinde

Do you identify as a conservative student or faculty member? Do you sometimes feel like your ideas and experiences aren’t as accepted or validated by your peers? If so, you are not alone, and a group of LBCC students, faculty members, and a nationwide advocacy group are working to change that.

The Heterodox Academy is a group of academic scholars whose goal is to encourage greater viewpoint diversity on college campuses nationwide. This means no longer avoiding controversial topics of contention, but instead encouraging a conversation between students and faculty with varying viewpoints so that a better understanding of the issue is developed.

This was the goal of Heterodox Academy Executive Director Dr. Deb Mashek when she met with student representatives from the Civil Discourse Club and the Student Leadership Council on Wednesday, Feb. 6. LBCC was her first stop on her tour of college campuses nationwide.

Students enjoyed pizza, coffee, and conversation as they sat at a circle of tables in the Calapooia Center boardroom. Like any good facilitator, Mashek rarely spoke, but instead prompted responses from students by asking pressing questions.

“How about outside the club space,” Mashek asked, “do you feel there are perspectives being shared with honesty?”

SLC President Shelby Pick recalled an experience she had in a women’s studies class at the time that controversy was brewing over Andrew Douglas Campbell’s explicit artwork. “We walked over as a class to see the artwork and some people were shocked,” Pick said, “when we got back to class the instructor said ‘We’re going to have an open discussion about this because this impacts feminism.’ We spent the next two hours discussing the artwork, and had a very well rounded discussion.”

“Something like this artwork or the Civil Discourse board sparks an emotion. We can discuss that emotion, and acknowledge that there are two or more different sides to an argument and that that is ok.”

The meeting went on for about an hour, and in that time students shared their experiences, both negative and positive, regarding how their peers and instructors have responded to controversy or tension in the classroom.

Mashek and students alike identified the stigma surrounding the concept of “safe spaces” on campus. Together they agreed that there is a distinction to be made between a “safe space from” controversial or uncommon ideas or opinions, and a “safe space to” discuss those ideas and opinions constructively and intelligently.

“Our goal is to make society a safe space,” said LBCC President Greg Hamann, “that’s the intent of the Constitution, that we have the right to free speech, and that we wouldn’t use that right to shout down those that we disagree with.”

“We want to be open to a variety of perspectives, of ways of knowing. As an education institution we are supposed to be philosophically liberal, open to new ideas. Not politically liberal.”

Story by Caleb Barber

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