Over the past few weeks, several email chains — clocking in at 24 and 40 messages each — flooded inboxes across campus. These chains functioned as a failed attempt at debate and a way for certain individuals to project a sense of ownership and authority over the topics within the chain.
The discussions themselves are critically important, and that is why email chains, and the onslaught of responses to them, are not a productive space for them. Like most college students, our inboxes are inundated with message after message. Chain emails are viewed as a nuisance if they even register at all.
There are better forums for starting campus-wide discussion. Such conversations should happen in-person, when the opportunity for conversation leads to just that: a conversation. The format of these email chains limits the ability to have an open exchange of thoughts and ideas instead of a mere projection of these.
By using email chains as a platform for discussion about last week’s Planned Parenthood event and the ensuing controversy, some of the individuals involved effectively placed female autonomy and reproductive health on par with lost keys and jackets. These emails are not readily accessible to the wider public; instead they are only seen by a number of students via residence hall email distribution lists. Conversations taking place via this platform are self-indulgent.
The Planned Parenthood email chain is an example of this self-congratulatory attitude. The conversation, which dealt with the issue of sexual health and vandalism on campus, consisted of predominantly male voices, some of whom were not engaging in good faith, but using the space to crack jokes. It wasn’t conducted in a way that directly benefited those who are affected by these issues — individuals who identify as women.
Often when conversations of this nature occur, those who hold more political influence and power are those who are heard. This should not be the case.
It is the role of an ally to marginalized groups to step back, and amplify the voices of those they are trying to support. They should never work to silence those who they are supposedly defending. The most recent email chain is an example of a misguided attempt to be an ally to those who organized the Planned Parenthood event, and that ultimately served to stifle their voices and minimize the significance of the debate.
One-liners are never a good way to engage. We should try, as much as possible, to elevate these issues to the level of discussion that they deserve.
The staff editorial was written this week by the executive editors of the Collegian, editors-in-chief Bailey Blaker ’18 and Gabrielle Healy ’18 and managing editor Lauren Eller ’18. You can contact them at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.