This week, the four sororities at Kenyon planned to bring a Planned Parenthood representative to campus to discuss birth control, sexually transmitted infections and consent. We intended the event to address potential disparities in the level of sexual health education among students. On Friday I hung a large poster in Peirce Dining Hall by the dish return to advertise the event. The poster stated there would be “FREE condoms, pamphlets and PP swag!” Saturday morning, I found the poster in the trash. It was vandalized with the comment, “And the 8,015,000 babies murdered since the 1970’s” written in Sharpie.
When I found the poster vandalized, I felt frustrated. It hurt that someone took this unproductive route to express their beliefs rather than engage in a conversation where we could both learn and grow. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to voice an unpopular opinion, but if people want their feelings to be known and respected, they have to be strong and trust their peers.
Kenyon is full of empathetic listeners and active learners. Many people complain that students are too sensitive; my response is that it is impossible to talk to you if you are not brave enough to sign your name next to your belief. It is impossible for productive change to occur if you refuse to respectfully engage with others.
One of my favorite things about Kenyon has been the opportunity to meet people who think differently than myself. Open and respectful discourse is one of the many things that makes Kenyon an enriching community and a great liberal arts college.
I am disheartened that someone chose this anonymous, cowardly and disrespectful approach to communicate their views rather than having the courage to discuss it in an open and respectful dialogue.
This willful act to embarrass and silence others through vandalism has far reaching consequences. The purpose of this event is to have a welcoming space where people can receive general sexual education. Individual need for the event could be for any number of reasons; whether someone wanted to review the information or learn the material from a professional, the event was meant for everyone. Sex can be a difficult subject to talk about, so students who wanted to attend this event were possibly already nervous. This attack may have kept people from receiving the information, which is the opposite of what Kenyon students should stand for. Kenyon students should stand for a welcoming environment where people have the opportunity to engage with ideas that interest them.
I have enough respect for myself and my beliefs to attach my name to them and to discuss them with those who may disagree. I also have enough respect for others to not vandalize their property, even if I strongly disagree with their belief. There have been many Trump signs and Confederate flags that I have wanted to rip out of people’s yards and throw away; I never have and I never will. Even if I do not agree, I respect their right to free speech and I hope for the same respect in return.
In light of this event, I urge the community to engage in open and respectful dialogue. Have the courage to stand up for your beliefs, the kindness to do so respectfully and the heart to listen.
Rachel Arens ’18 is a neuroscience major from Columbus, Ohio. You can reach her at email@example.com.