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Oklahoma Wesleyan University President slams students for playing the victim

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Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Everett Piper penned an open letter titled “This Is Not A Daycare! It’s a University!” in regard to political correctness of students on his campus and on other campuses across the country. He calls out students for acting as “victims” and for complaining when their “feelings are hurt.”

The letter comes in the wake of what some perceive as a rise in political correctness at college campuses across the country. There have been multiple protests over racial tensions, including at Yale University where there was a debate over whether certain Halloween customs were offensive. University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe was forced to resign over the racial tension.

Piper referred to an incident in which one of his students told him he felt victimized by a sermon given at the university. Oklahoma Wesleyan is an evangelical Christian university.

He wrote in the letter that college students are self-absorbed, and told TODAY that our generation has a mentality of forcing everyone to comply with the majority’s opinion.

The letter split our editorial board. Some of us, while disagreeing with his brashness, agree with Piper’s core argument that college is meant to challenge one’s ideas and beliefs. We also feel Piper, a white male, and presumably wealthy one at that as a university president, may not have the right to tell certain groups of people how to deal with oppression he has likely never faced.

It’s surprising he was able to pen the letter at all and that his public relations team didn’t stop him from submitting such an honest, open and not so gently worded letter. At the same time, his letter points out an issue that many are discussing, including President Barrack Obama and several comics who are now refusing to perform on college campuses for the perceived over-the-top political correctness.

College is for exploring, and as long as those ideas are not based in bigotry and meant to cause physical harm to others, it’s important for students to have an open mind.

College should be an open learning experience – one in which we deal with the uncomfortable or the vague and discuss it in a manner that’s productive and educational. It should act as a space to discuss topics that are difficult or controversial. Without this space, there’s no room for opinions or ideology, just mere straightforward learning like high school.

OK, so the elephant in the room. The “White Only” art project here at UB. Graduate fine art student Ashley Powell’s project has challenged our ideas of what art is, and overall, seems to have created good discussion about diversity at UB. Student leaders are meeting with President Tripathi. There is a task force of students meeting with University Police. These are good things.

But we’re not willing to completely agree with Powell’s methods. While we are for challenging our ideas, we still stand by our stance from the beginning that Powell should have labeled the signs as an art project because students feared her project was a hate crime.

We want students to challenge each other’s ideas and go outside their comfort zone, not frightened and thinking they are hated.

But back to Piper.

At the same time, Piper’s letter is very brash and straightforward. There’s little sensitivity to the oppression of others. His comments about our generation’s complaining seem a little out of place. He cannot truly relate to the oppression that some of these students are feeling.

He cannot empathize with students who are suffering from these social tragedies and because he can’t relate, perhaps it’s not his place to comment on the protests.

We also have to remember that he is complaining about a generation of kids that his generation helped raise. It’s true, we did grow up in a generation where everyone wins and everyone gets a trophy, but it was the adults who were giving us those trophies and that encouragement.

It’s fair for him to express his opinion – in fact to say he shouldn’t have made his comments at all would be hypocritical of us.

We instead believe Piper should have redirected his approach. He should not have come off as so absolute. And while making the point that college students are playing the victim, he should have considered, in some cases, they are victims.

There are some students facing discrimination for their race, sex and orientation. Let’s not forget that.

This harsh letter may not have been the best way to open up the discussion.

The editorial board and be reached at eic@ubspectrum.com.


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