Sensitive student responses prevent open discussion


By Minju Park

Last week, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University Dr. Everett Piper wrote an open letter to the public criticizing the pattern of college students feeling “victimized” when having differing opinions on controversial topics.

This was in response to a student who told him he felt “offended” by a church sermon with which he didn’t quite agree. This student felt the sermon was wrong because it made “him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.” The sermon, 1 Corinthians 13, speaks about the all encompassing power of love, in which the student responded by feeling “bad for not showing love.” SO

Recently, there seems to be a shift from being able to have an intellectual disagreement and debate with others, to being paranoid of political incorrectness, similar to what Piper expressed in his letter.

This could be due to the constantly changing culture of America, in which people who are white are gradually becoming the minority race compared to the growing populations of various minorities. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2044, whites will make up 49.7 percent of the population, compared to 25 percent Hispanic, 12.7 percent black, 7.9 percent Asian and 3.7 percent multiracial. SO

There is a growing percentage of the population with different backgrounds, values and perspectives that may lead to offended feelings when making controversial statements.

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    It isn’t that people shouldn’t have differing perspectives, but that, as of recently, more people have been jumping to the victimization response, which basically dismisses a viewpoint or perspective solely because it has the potential to hurt or offend another person’s feelings. The victimization response avoids intellectual debate or an attempt to objectively understand another’s viewpoint in order to avoid provocation.

    A recent example of this victimization response is the controversy over cultural appropriation of the yoga classes held at the University of Ottawa. The university’s Centre for Students with Disabilities stated that the yoga class at the university has recently been removed due to unpopularity of classes, but many suspect that the class was removed due to some staff and students commenting on the “cultural appropriation” behind the yoga classes. Yoga historically has origins in India, but has grown significantly in global popularity. This has caught the interest of the Hindu American Foundation, which is campaigning to bring awareness to the Western commercialization of yoga. SO

    While the westernization of yoga is evident in the Lululemon-clad, Starbucks-drinking girls doing sun salutations in the ARC, simply cancelling the class is not the most effective way to open up discussion and resolve the problems of ignorance and misunderstanding.

    Instead, instructors could provide a lesson about the spiritual and religious implications behind the beginnings of yoga, make sure to learn the correct pronunciation of yoga poses or intonations in the native language or to emphasize certain key aspects of ancient yoga, such as kindness and mindfulness.

    Even the first teachers of yoga, such as BKS Iyengar — creator of some of the first yoga schools in Pune, India — advocated the spread of yoga to a global scale. In response to yoga deviating from its original spirituality, Iyengar states, “It all depends on what state of mind the practitioner is in when he is doing yoga. . . For the aberration, don’t blame yoga or the whole community of yogis.” SO

    The yoga situation at the University of Ottawa relates back to Piper’s letter in that again, the victimization response is played with the claims of political incorrectness and cultural appropriation. The demands to remove yoga in totality from western society were catered to with yoga no longer being offered at the University of Ottawa.

    Piper’s open letter brings up an issue in our generation of teens and young adults — we have become too accustomed to claiming that our view, and our view only, is the correct one. We refuse to look past our offended feelings from the other side failing to agree with our perspective. Instead, we stubbornly push away the opposition and focus on the righteousness of our own viewpoints.

    This kind of mindset in our generation will only continue to cycle in the generations to come. An inability to understand and to cooperate is the crux of many social issues among today’s leaders. It is up to us to stop this, by finding the balance between standing up for one’s beliefs and remembering to keep an open mind at the same time.

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