“It’s fine, I don’t want to hear what you think.”

This a a sentence I usually hear when people are having a debate on a topic and both of them have completely different opinions. I actually think that having different ideas and thoughts is what makes learning fun. When people think differently, it usually brings about healthy arguments and a respectful exchange of ideas — if conversations are done right, that is.

As a college student, you should expect your opinions and thoughts to be challenged. You should also be willing to listen to and understand people who think differently from you. You should be able to think outside your comfort zone even if that makes you uncomfortable, I strongly believe that such conversations should be promoted among classmates, friends, and teammates.

I have noticed that here at Concordia people are afraid to have arguments because sometimes they think a topic is too sensitive, they do not want to offend someone else or they don’t want their own beliefs to be offended. I have had conversations with people who think completely opposite of what I think and most times it has given me a reason to understand things from their point of view. What if things aren’t always black and white? What if there is a whole rainbow of colors and gray areas to a situation? Some of us will never know the in-between because we hide under the umbrellas of our safety and comfort. As students who are meant to be thoughtful and informed I strongly believe that we all have to have open conversations about issues such as race, sexuality, religion and other important issues without being too defensive or too offended. If in a discussion you get too defensive, ask yourself, “Why?”

For example, at Concordia the talk about race is only brought up and discussed aggressively on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After that, the community goes back to the “Happy Cobber” atmosphere. If you try to talk about racial issues to some people they get as defensive as saying “I am not a racist” and use that statement to avoid a whole conversation because the topic makes them uncomfortable.

If, for example, you are pro-life, you should be able to talk openly to people who are pro-choice and see reasons with them and not just label them as the “other group.” I have found myself in situations where I have had to argue with people who thought very differently than me. Most of these arguments have ended up being very respectful and understanding without anyone having to change the way they think and we still remain friends.

One way to promote these kinds of conversations would be to introduce a broader idea of “safe space” to the campus. This actual physical space could be a place where students who have contrasting beliefs and thoughts could organize meetings and speak out freely and listen to others as well without feeling either too offended or judged. Beyond this, professors could choose to add challenging topics into their syllabi and encourage students to discuss in class and also do extensive research. One thing to always keep in mind is that you can listen to and understand people who don’t share the same beliefs as you and not change the way you think. I think that being able to listen to varying perspectives and talk about controversial “sensitive” topics is what makes a Cobber truly informed and ready to face the world.

 

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