Third World Center Perspectives: On the Value of Discourse

Hello and welcome! We are Dolma Ombadykow and Olivia Veira. We’re both first years and will be blogging the Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club blog this year! It’s going to be excellent.

Hey folks,

It’s been a pretty busy past week for us here at Brown. From hearing the results of the Corporation’s meeting and their stance on whether or not to divest in coal (hint: “just not right now” has arbitrarily been assigned the most accurate, generic break-up line that the Corporation has assigned to the idea of divestment), to the protest that shut down NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly’s talk on his various policies, including the incredibly controversial Stop and Frisk policies. We aren’t here to tell you what is or isn’t right, but instead emphasize the impact of community discourse that has occurred on campus since last tuesday. Though we can debate about whether or not it was an infringement on Ray Kelly’s first amendment rights to stop him from speaking in the first place, since then, campus conversations have been abuzz about what it’s like to be a minority (both racially and intellectually) in today’s society. These talks have occurred at President Paxson’s community forum (as pictured above), at Brown Conversations this past saturday, late night cafeterias, and even in the halls of Keeney Quad and Pembroke, replacing usual conversation topics of Miley Cyrus and “What are you going to be for Halloween?” (ed: Olivia was a firefighter and Dolma was a Dolma. Get it? Because no one else did).

But how do we value individual thought and embrace the concept of minority versus majority opinion? Brown is an interesting little bubble where the majority opinion on campus usually falls to the minority on a broader scale, and roles are flipped — conservatives complain their voices aren’t being heard and liberals preach to the choir of their 6,000 closest friends. It makes for a confusing concept of reality–but why does it matter? It matters because of the conversations we’re having.

Let’s talk about the community forum, for example. Over 600 people packed into Alumnae Hall to express their concerns and thoughts on Ray Kelly’s invitation to campus, on his attempted lecture, on what it means to have personal, protected space, and on racism in general. The general consensus (at least of the people in my area of the forum) was that if we removed the podium, if Ray Kelly was here for a discussion and not for a lecture, if he was in a position that didn’t demonstrate his power, then wouldn’t that allow for a much safer, less demeaning space for the people of color who wanted to confront the man on his policies? What could have happened if he heard personal stories about how Stop and Frisk and similar policies had affected them? Even if his policies didn’t change as result of these conversations, how much more valuable could that discussion have been if a discussion was allowed to happen?

Of course, two hours of discussion didn’t lead to a complete solution. But the forum certainly did a lot for campus. For starters, it repaired a great rift on campus. For days, students had been arguing over the issue. Of course, these conversations did not stop, but it gave many people, both for and against the protest, a safe opportunities to share their opinions and be heard. It was also enlightening. We know we went into the forum thinking one thing, came out thinking something else. But regardless of what we came away thinking, it was so great to hear the voices of students and faculty.

So, if you’re now afraid to come to Brown because you’re afraid that your opinion will be silenced: don’t be. But when you are applying, know that Brown is committed to social justice and equity. We will not be silenced in the face of racism or oppression.

We might not have the same opinions on these difficult issues as you. But, if you’re anything like us, you want to find a solution. And we can’t imagine a better place to do it than Brown.

We will be co-blogging the first year, Third World Center perspective for the Bruin Club this year. If you have any questions or suggestions for what you’d like to see happen with our blog, please send us an email! We don’t bite (promise!).

We hope to hear from all of you!

Olivia & Dolma

olivia_veira@brown.edu

dolma_ombadykow@brown.edu

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