Response from Shelby Baylis ’09 regarding the recently passed Campus Union resolution in support of free speech

Bravo, Campus Union!

Looking through my Facebook newsfeed, I was made aware of the recent Campus Union resolution that was passed titled “A Resolution in support of Free Speech at Wofford College.” As an alumnus of Wofford, and a former Campus Union representative (2005-2008), I was extremely proud of the delegates for taking on such a tall task.

The resolution was very well crafted. President Samhat’s statement was in opposition to core facets of the Wofford Way–freedom of expression and speech. The resolution’s emphasis on freedom of expression and freedom of speech was not done by accident.

It also addressed that there are a wide array of values/opinions/morals living in the house of Wofford–both past and present. The beauty of the Wofford Way was that Wofford College never made political statements. It never was a political player. Instead, it welcomed open discussion on our campus and in our classroom.

By breaking with that tradition and stating that this is the official Wofford stance–to oppose President Trump’s executive order–quashes discussion and debate. Wofford, and colleges across America, need to embrace the spirit of critical thinking. Instead of extinguishing the spirit of debate and discussion, let’s ENCOURAGE discussion. You disagree with me? That’s great! Let’s discuss critically and analytically.

President Samhat’s statement effectively shut that down.

I understand that there was a desire to reassure those that were impacted by the travel ban. However, President Samhat could have reached out to those impacted directly. He could make a personal statement on his own channels of communication. Or, A simple statement on Wofford’s website stating “If you are impacted by the recent Executive Order, please contact President Samhat at president@wofford.edu” showing that people can reach out to the President of Wofford directly–showing that President Samhat takes this Executive Order seriously and realizes others may be impacted.

If President Samhat felt compelled to state his opinion on the Executive order, this whole situation would have been avoided if he took the lead from other leaders in America and used his OWN channels of communication. For example, Elon Musk used his OWN Twitter account to voice his opinion on the executive order. He did not commandeer the official SpaceX/Tesla accounts to say, “This is what SpaceX/Tesla believes.” By stating that Wofford does not agree with the executive order, he shut down debate, placed those who agree with the executive order as being in direct conflict with Wofford’s core values, and ended the discussion on Campus.

Well done, Campus Union reps. It is not an easy task crafting a response like that. I only hope that the Wofford administration takes your resolution to heart. Certain aspects of the Wofford Way are worth preserving–most of all, nurturing an environment where all are encouraged to discuss all points of views on current events. Freedom of expression and freedom of speech should be celebrated and encouraged whether or not you agree with the recent executive order. That is something we can all get behind.

-Shelby Baylis, class of 2009

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