On March 26, Paula Kamen, journalist and author gave a speech on the sexual evolution of American culture. Towards the end, the talk degenerated into an episode of “Sally” or a “Talk-back Live” as rather foul and repugnant participants ? unfortunately most of them men ? began making rather brazen anti-intellectual comments.

Worse than the comments themselves, Kamen was left alone as disgusted students, no longer capable of tolerating this demonstration of ignorance and disrespect, walked out. Among the few left were the organizers, Kamen and the beasts. They were ravenous to show off their newfound abilities to manipulate their larynx, with comments such as, “Is there any correlation between orgasmic frequency and grade point average?”

It goes without saying that this hijacking of an honest discussion was horrific. Even worse, in a critical moment, I became aligned with those filthy philistines. Fending off the dirty old man’s question, Kamen asked the audience, smiling, “Do we want to see studies on this?” I was convinced this was a joke.

Nobody laughed ? but me. At the end, I stayed to apologize to Kamen, but the injury was done to the school and to myself.

I can only say one thing in my defense. I am a fool who quite simply, is too slow in realizing what people are actually saying. Although a sort of gut instinct was telling me something had gone terribly awry, I could not see that the talk was being subverted until it was too late.

Long after those first blatantly anti-intellectual comments were made, I found that I was completely unaware and unskilled in the deceptively simple art of listening.

There were clearly two extremes here ? one open to dialogue and reason and the other closed to everything but ignorance. However, this sort of delineation between ideologies and attitudes is not always clear.

So used to the less violent differences in opinion among my peers, I was completely unprepared when confronted by full-blown disregard for civility. In that the moment, I truly believed that man was joking. After all no sane individual would really mean that. All the same, I helped destroy Kamen’s speech.

As an individual my actions are reprehensible, but somewhat negligible. However, the larger effect is to a community like ours that is dedicated to the exchange of ideas. The attitudes of such intolerant individuals threaten our ability to learn from each other.

To prevent this from happening in the future, I can only urge other students to pay attention. Listen to each other and watch for the nuances in the rhetoric people quote and say. Don’t just write-off vandalism like that in Morey Hall and CLARC or even phrases in everyday conversation like “That’s gay” or “This is so ghetto.” Instead, you should go out and learn about various groups and ideologies.

Boad can be reached at eboad@campustimes.org.

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