SGA and Safezones: Political Divide Doesn’t Help Anyone

SGA and Safezones: Political Divide Doesnt Help Anyone

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SGA and Safezones: Political Divide Doesn’t Help Anyone

By: Reece Napierski

The Student Government Association (SGA) meeting that took place on Jan. 31, 2018 concerning the institution of safe zones on campus became the latest battle in the ongoing culture wars that continue to divide our nation. The room was split both literally and symbolically, between the conservative right, and liberal left. The audience was rife with clapping, snapping, signs and the occasional cheering: indicators that this was nothing more than a political rally in which they could espouse their often-unrelated convictions. The result was similar diatribes on free speech, gender, race and other hot button social issues with tenuous links to safe zones.

On the far side of the room sat most of the safe zone opponents, primarily comprised of members from the College Republicans, who were intent on using the safe zone controversy as a way of emphasizing the lack of conservative representation within SGA. And the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi, who had come in a display of solidarity with their fellow brother and SGA member Tim D’Agostino who had initially ignited this controversy by refusing to be safe zone certified. Many of the appeals to come out of this camp were centered around free speech, the alleged pointlessness of safe zones and the desire to establish safe environments for conservatives on campus. The irony of this last demand was seemingly lost on many of its supporters. 

Supporters of safe spaces primarily populated the other half of the room. Clad in 8×10 signs that were near impossible to read and surrounded by a miasma of outrage, they were determined to implement safe zone certification for all SGA members. The arguments to come from this camp ranged from the reasonable, to the reductive, to the outright bizarre. The more reasonable proponents of safe zones simply stated that they believed that all students on campus deserve a place where they can feel comfortable and truly be themselves regardless of their race, gender, or ability. However, these reasonable assertions were drowned out by tirades claiming that the University campus is practically a racist Mordor, and downright baffling attempts to assassinate D’Agostino’s character. These arguments bordered on the extreme and seriously hurt the legitimacy of the pro-safe space movement.

I was disappointed by how the SGA meeting turned out. Neither side truly listened nor considered what the other side had to say. This was simply another battleground where opposing groups could spar. Who won? Who lost? It’s irrelevant. The true losers are those of us who find themselves in the middle of this increasingly polarized social and political landscape. For most of the attendees and speakers this open forum wasn’t about safe zones or the internal policies of SGA. It was instead just another opportunity for people to advocate their personal political beliefs, belittle their ideological opponents, and further strengthen the divide that so many of our compatriots have already fallen into. 

To see the youth of our nation embitter themselves on the venom of partisan politics is saddening and inspires little hope for the future of our nation and society. I honestly hope that as a people we can stop using politics as such an important personal identifier. Define yourself through your friends, family, hobbies, extracurriculars and interests. Anything but politics. Politics turns brothers into enemies and fractures families. When taken personally, politics is a poison to both the mind and soul. Be interested, informed and involved in politics but don’t take them so personally that you perceive an attack on a political position as an attack on your person. This mode of thinking gets us nowhere and only serves to further divide our nation.