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The free press, not a free pass

The past two weeks have played host to freshman orientation, two speeches by interfaith leader Eboo Patel and a two-day symposium on international genocide. A brief glimpse through the pages of this week’s Concordian reveals how seriously we as students and professors accept the charge of engaging the world around us.

At the Concordian, we believe that we help present and distribute the student voice. This week’s story about the “Sin is Sin” T-shirts is one of many two-sided issues that must be discussed by Concordia students. As a news purveyor on a campus committed to inclusion, The Concordian is responsible for reporting on it. We believe that it was done fairly, yet there is more to this issue, as can be seen in the wide-ranging discussions it fosters. The conversation quickly grows from a small college’s celebration of National Coming Out Day, to the role of religion on campus, election politics in Minnesota and ultimately, a conversation of free speech.

As a newspaper staff, it is rewarding to watch our campus sound its opinions. However, there is a difference between having your own opinions and being disrespectful of others’ beliefs and lives. While for most students Facebook is the easiest form of communication, it still isn’t the public forum a lot of us imagine it to be. A discussion can be started on Facebook or other social media, but to become a true dialogue it needs to be brought into the public sphere and made accessible by all. Facebook or other sites where comments can be disabled, deleted or monitored impedes progress and engenders polarization as posts build atop each other without engaging opposing viewpoints. The goal of discussion surrounding “Sin is Sin” should not be to draw a line in the sand but to further our understanding of our neighbors.

Even though the shirts may come across as a disrespectful parody of the “Love is Love” campaign, this whole controversy has revealed the tendency of students to listen to their own opinions and shower praise and agreement upon likeminded Cobbers while lambasting those who disagree. When we hold ourselves as incontrovertibly right, no matter the cause, we risk tuning out objections that reveal flaws in our thinking. Even when we cannot find logic in a different viewpoint, we are presented with the chance to hold a mirror up to our own reasoning for examination.

As your student newspaper, we want to play host to that conversation and promote dialogue among the community. We are tasked with not only reporting the college’s stories but to act as a sounding board for student opinion and discussion. For us, the “Sin is Sin” debate is an opportunity to reiterate our commitment facilitating discussion. Projecting opinions into empty space isn’t progress. Engaging students, faculty and staff with questions – especially questions with difficult answers –to create thoughtful and informed citizens is not only the mission of the Concordian, but of the college itself.

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