The events of the past few weeks have certainly shown that William and Mary students can be extremely passionate about the issues that concern them the most. Unfortunately, these events have also shown that the passion certain students feel about such issues often eclipses the necessity for civil debate.
One of the most recent examples of this phenomena occurred on April 7th, when Students for Life (SFL) and Catholic Campus Ministries (CCM) attended a meeting of the pro-choice organization Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX) and acted in a disruptive manner. While The Informer certainly believes that it is very important that both view points are well heard, it also believes that disrupting the meeting of a rival organization does nothing to foster the kind of debate we would like to see on campus. Rather, such actions create a combative atmosphere in which both sides strive to be more radical than the other. Likewise, such obstructionism tends to alienate the student body at large. Students are then unable to come to reasoned conclusions.
One can only look at the recent history of the Living Wage Coalition to see how obstructive behavior can quickly distance student advocacy groups from both students and administration. On Thursday, members of the LWC protested outside Blow Hall with the intent to disrupt the Board of Visitors meeting. The group stormed the reception area outside of the BOV meeting, which was in closed session at the time, yelling and chanting in order to try and force their way into the meeting in spite of a previously scheduled sit-down with President Reveley and Rector Wolf set for 5:45. President Reveley’s subsequent comments condemning the way in which the LWC has conducted themselves throughout their campaign were, in our opinion, extremely on point.
We welcome and encourage students to advocate for their beliefs. We certainly and consistently oppose any efforts to regulate the content of student speech by anyone. We are worried by the tactics that the LWC and SFL have employed. Part of a debate is allowing your opponent their time. VOX had the right to present its argument at its own hosted meeting. The members of SFL who attended should have allowed VOX to present their argument before challenging them, or should have held their own separate meeting. Likewise, the Living Wage Coalition had no right to interrupt the Board of Visitors in closed session, especially when they already had a scheduled meeting with the President and the Rector. It is important that groups act in a mature fashion and engage each other fairly. If not, they risk harming their own causes.