Section: Opinion

Editor’s Corner: Amidst the play debate, a lesson in listening

When I left the Bolton Theater on Thursday after the common hour panel on Professor of Drama and James Michael Playwright-in-Residence Wendy MacLeod’s ’81 The Good Samaritan, I noticed something strange.

We had just come out of an hour-long conversation about the play, and yet that was not what we were talking about afterward. Everyone was talking about Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann’s comments, which focused on the nature of our conversation as opposed to the conversation itself.

This week, you will find that the opinions section has a letter to the editor and an article penned about the MacLeod play. Though the opinions are in contrast, sometimes starkly, they express a common fear of Kenyon’s current students, and use the rhetorical tactic of changing — rather than in engaging in — the conversation.

I wrote two weeks ago that the Collegian’s important role because we are more than just a student newspaper. I wanted to take this time to articulate the moments when specific student voices are most important.

Our frustration with MacLeod’s play is that, among other things, it marginalizes and stereotypes Latinx people. The College assures us daily that it is working hard to recruit students of color, to make a home for a diverse student body here in a place that has traditionally been overwhelmingly white.

People in positions of privilege often have a hard time seeing the tangibility of systemic harms. To my fellow white males: If you want a good example, reflect on how Kenyon looks and feels right now to our Latinx peers, past, present and future.

I know there’s an irony in me putting this into writing, but if you don’t feel the harm in this play I urge you to take a step back. To Professors Baumann and Schubel: Our respect for you runs deep, but please don’t turn this into an opportunity to air your grievances toward the College and your colleagues. We pose no threat to MacLeod by speaking our mind. You are the ones with the power to censor, not us. Don’t speak so loud as to quell the conversation students are currently having for the sake of a different one that you want to have.

From what I heard, students who spoke out during common hour a week ago were voicing their frustrations both about MacLeod’s harmful depictions and how the fact that she made them reflects on this campus. I want to challenge those who, in these pages and elsewhere, have tried to divert and abstract the conversation away from reality.

Kenyon students, I believe, are smart enough to differentiate between the useful and the harmful. We are also human enough to feel the difference. Most importantly, we are mature enough to be treated like adults. The adults, along with students who do not feel the harm this play has caused, should know Kenyon better than to worry about our intentions. They should take the time to listen to those who are upset, in pain, frustrated and tired. I know I will be listening.

Tommy Johnson ’20 is a political science major from Pittsboro, N.C. He is the editor of the opinions section. Contact him at johnson1@kenyon.edu.

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