Sensitivity hinders potential for effective debates

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

On Nov. 2, the Illini Democrats and Illini Republicans participated in a debate. The topic of free speech was at the center of the discussion.

The debate was necessary, following several acts of suppression and protest against the members of the Illinois Student Government, Turning Point USA and the Illini Republicans, such as the Homecoming protest, defacing Turning Point USA posters and disrupting an Illini Republicans meeting. On all three occasions, harmless displays of free speech were disrupted in an ignorant manner.

Everyday topics of discussion are turning into increasingly sensitive matters, and people are becoming afraid to share their opinions about current events in fear of being ostracized. Those who do openly share their opinions are attacked for being insensitive and too direct.

But it’s time to move past all of the sensitivity. Trying to silence people for their beliefs and deciding who gets to say what isn’t how conversations work, let alone how life works.

College campuses see the most of that suppression of speech. It’s a time for many to grow as humans and strengthen their beliefs, whether it is parallel to what they’ve been following their entire life or the complete opposite.

Coming from grade school, many were surrounded by like-minded people, but in college there is an enormous amount of diversity that we need to adjust to. Rather than suppressing opinions that challenge ours, it’s important to start seeing them as learning opportunities to understand the lives of other people.

In a very rare case on campus, there was an opportunity to see two sides meet and converse at the Illini Republicans and Illini Democrats debate. But very few students were aware of it or made an effort to talk about it afterward.

With how integrated social media has become in our daily lives and how important our opinions are in defining who we are as people, it’s not hard to conform to one side, and frankly, we don’t really have a choice.

Those who conform to one side of an argument face a large amount of backlash, but those who aren’t on either side are seen as irrelevant. A lot of the times the ones who remain neutral face more backlash than anyone else for not “caring” enough about society.

Regardless of your standing on particular issues, there needs to be context and background knowledge to your beliefs. It’s important to have that information so you can have discussions with other people, whether it’s agreeing or disagreeing about various topics.

Without having a certain level of understanding that addresses various sides of discussion, it will no longer be possible to have any form of conversation. Students need to be more persistent in searching for and starting these types of discussions. This allows us to put sensitivity aside when approaching conversations.

This starts with actively participating in these discussions by being at the front of it, or by simply listening, like many did at the Illini Republicans vs. Illini Democrats debate. Having these types of discussions can be difficult at times, but a lot of the times they’re already started for us. All it takes is an open mind and the determination to grow as an individual.

Saketh is a sophomore in DGS. 

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