To the Editors,
I recently had a chance to browse the Collegian’s website, taking the opportunity, as I occasionally do, to check up on the news around campus. I came to a popular (judging by the number of views) story about the recent appearance of a comedian on campus (“Pete Davidson ‘Objectively Bombed’ Anticipated Show”). The last article reported the fact that, in the course of his act, Mr. Davidson called out a well-dressed student as being a “nice respectful young man.” The student, an editor of The Campus Constitutional, was immediately booed by most — if not all — of the crowd. When Mr. Davidson then asked the audience, “Does he suck?,” he was answered with cheering. With cheering!
I cannot begin to express how deeply ashamed I am of the student body and, by extension, my alma mater.
In March of this year, President Decatur penned a letter to the editor appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education. President Decatur rightly pointed out that free speech and inclusion are not irreconcilable. We can accommodate diverse speech and still treat each other with respect even when we disagree.
I entertain no doubt that if the target of Mr. Davidson’s boos and cheers had been a transgender student, a disabled student or, indeed, anyone but a political conservative, Kenyon would already have done extensive, collective soul-searching amid very vocal and public outcries. And rightly so. Why is the behavior of the student body different in this case? Doesn’t everyone deserve to be included? Doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated with at least a basic level of respect and human decency?
If you disagree with the content of The Campus Constitutional, then write a letter to the editor. Pen an article. Start a contrary publication. Substantive dialogue is the essence of good political and social discourse.
I am speaking now directly to the student body: You should be ashamed. Ashamed of yourselves if you took part in this behavior; ashamed of your peers if you did not. When you act this way, you evidence the failings of Kenyon in teaching you, and yourselves in learning, how to behave in a liberal democracy. You must be better than the behavior we see played out daily in the news. Be a better example now so that you may be a better example in the future.
Christopher Mitchell, Esq. ’91
[Editor’s Note: This letter was edited for length and clarity.]