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Gettysburg College cowers to media pressure over student project

Webster’s Dictionary defines liberal arts as “college or university studies (such as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (such as reason and judgement) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.”

Gettysburg College has long defined itself as such an institution. It was a liberal arts education that I received from that very institution in 1997.

In the current political climate, institutions of higher learning – particularly those who teach liberal arts —  have found themselves under constant attack.

Last week the college found itself, once again, embroiled in a national scandal, defending itself. In 2019, it was the surfaced yearbook photo of a Board of Trustees member dressed as a Nazi television character. Now, it is a flyer for a peace and justice student project that invited students to participate in an event where they would write and paint about how tired they were of cisgender White men.

FOX News and other conservative media outlets ran with this story all week.

That’s not at all shocking, and here is why:

Right wing news outlets like to paint the left as being divisive and playing identity politics. And the left has allowed the right to run with and control this narrative.

This needs to change and here is why:

There are about 72 million registered Democrats in the US. Those 72 million Americans come from all walks of life, are of various shades, and live diverse lifestyles. To govern such an eclectic mix of people requires acceptance, embracing, and celebration of differences. So, yes, the Democrats do play identity politics. If they didn’t, the Democratic Party would look like… the Republican Party.

But what the Democrats aren’t is divisive. Being divisive is these same news pundits not reporting that just a few weeks ago, Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a right wing student group, brought the right wing author, Ryan Anderson, to campus. Anderson is nationally known for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

I didn’t see left wing news media outlets running that story. And the students and alumni who were interviewed in the conservative media failed to mention the continued harassing and threatening behaviors displayed towards minority students by cisgender, white, male students who ride around campus hurling racial epithets at minority students.

I, myself, was verbally assaulted by a cisgender White male student in 2019. Of course, none of that is newsworthy. What is newsworthy is the right wing attempting to use identity politics against the left. The humorous part of this is that in their defense of cisgender White men they are validating the very need for the canceled event.

Would they still be defending if the event had been for a women’s domestic violence shelter? Or a bachelorette party? Doubtful.

Will my alma mater cower to social pressure, like it did over a 30 year old yearbook picture, or will it defend itself and its reputation as a liberal arts institution? Will it speak truth to power or will it bow down to the dollar? Will Gettysburg College defend and prioritize the “development of general intellectual capacities” promised in their liberal arts curriculum?

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Elmer Shelton, freelance reporter:

I was born and raised in Selbyville, DE. In 1997, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature, from Gettysburg College. And in 2003, I earned a Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. Prior to moving back to Gettysburg, in April of 2018, I had spent 13 years living in Portland, ME. - I am a fanatical tennis lover and an avid volleyball fan. I have been vegan and gluten-free for a decade and would describe myself as a hippie minimalist. I am employed by Pennsylvania Counseling Services, as a Forensic Outpatient Therapist. When I am not working, I am primarily engaged with my college fraternity, Alpha Chi Rho, where I serve as President of its Alumni Board. I am also the Recording Secretary for the Gettysburg Black History Museum, a position that has exposed me to the countless ways Black people have contributed to the town and state. Lastly, I am a member of the Gettysburg branch of Democracy For America, where I am learning more about how local and state politics work in PA.

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  • The cisgender white men hurling racial epithets are clearly a–holes. And as a cisgender white man myself, I will freely admit that most a–holes I know are cisgender white men. But that simply does not mean that all cisgender white men are a–holes. Therefore, saying we are “tired of cisgender white men” is a discriminatory generalization. Next time, just call them what they are: racist a–holes. I think we are all tired of racist a–holes, and I’m pretty sure most cisgender white men are tired of them too.

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