Political convictions, not correctness

by Trelawny Vermont-Davis / Beacon Staff • April 23, 2014

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Following convictions are important, even beyond the Boylston T stop.
Following convictions are important, even beyond the Boylston T stop.

A certain reaction comes to all of us each April — successive disbelief at having finished your freshman year of college, suddenly being halfway done and then, astonishingly, being on the cusp of graduation. 

When I first took to these pages, I was nervous to publicize my views on such a widely accessible platform. I was worried as to how my professors and peers would react to my thoughts on sensitive and personal subjects. Two years ago, I wrote about the politics behind the Dark Knight Rises, then Affirmative Action, and a controversial defense of Emerson in light of a few less-than-flattering scandals. I had written because I cared about the issues—I cared as a minority student and as an Emerson Lion worried for her college. 

As Emerson students, we possess a unique opportunity: For four years, we have the luxury to engage in a continual conversation. For me, the Beacon was the home for that conversation. But classrooms, dining halls, Facebook — these are just some of the many other mediums for our discourse. It is our privilege to debate with one another and to champion the causes we genuinely believe are important.

At the core of this privilege lies an argument: that ideas matter — that the conversation at Emerson can have a ripple effect beyond the corner of Boylston and Tremont. And it’s an expensive proposition; society spends a lot to send us here. 

On occasion, it can seem our community falls short of its price tag. And at a school so concerned with political correctness, sometimes, we are afraid of offending each other and so we self-censor. In my two years as an editor and writer, I quickly realized that there are some topics that as a society, we are simply not ready to discuss. And, conversely, issues I did care about and wrote about landed me in uncomfortable positions, sometimes even with my closest friends. It is no secret that it is easier to play it safe by staying within boundaries. 

At other times, we are simply apathetic. I say “we” because I know I have never engaged in a protest at Emerson. And from what it seems, most of my peers haven’t either. Sure, some student groups attempt to “raise awareness” by creating Facebook groups and starting Twitter hashtags. But when was the last time you participated in a raucous rally for something you really cared about? 

By and large, though, despite these occasional uninterested lulls, Emerson works. We buy into the proposal that what we study, what we write, and what we say can influence society. And — perhaps most crucially — we usually, in one way or another, end up standing for something. 

As I prepare to leave Emerson, I have been asking myself: What did I stand for? In these pages, I have challenged the economic status quo — from Walmart’s static business model to Occupy Wall Street’s misguided movement. I have advocated for intellectual diversity — the notion that all ideas, especially dissenting ones, contain value. I have consistently argued that our culture impacts our academics, and that we must critically re-evaluate both.

There are many moments when it is appropriate to critique our time at Emerson. But, at the end of the day, we still love it. It becomes as much a part of us as anything we will be a part of.

It is easier to take stances at Emerson, in part because our community is one endless conversation. And it is also our responsibility, precisely because it is easier, to take these stances. As my peers and I graduate, we will enter a world where standing up for our values becomes increasingly difficult — who talks politics at the workplace? So to those who will remain in the windiest pocket of Boston: Make use of your privilege and make your convictions known.

But our obligation to ideas and to our values does not simply end when we leave Emerson. It may get harder to write an op-ed or speak out about our beliefs, but the issues are no less important. Our job is to take the Emerson we love, that constant conversation, and resettle it into wherever we live. I hope that I will, and I hope that you will.