Dordt voices opinion on free speech

Tess Hemmila–Staff Writer

In the wake of events such as Free Speech Week at University California Berkeley, the question that comes to mind is, why do we have speakers that don’t necessarily share our beliefs to come to Dordt? The answer lies in the school’s mission statement: “Dordt College equips students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively towards Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life.”

In recent weeks at UC Berkeley, there have been complications surrounding what is known as “Free Speech Week,” a joint project between the only conservative news publication on campus, The Berkeley Patriot, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a political activist associated with conservatism and the Alt-right.

Free Speech Week was meant to bring in a series of conservative speakers, including Yiannopoulos himself, to speak at Berkeley. However, after a number of intense protests on campus relating to the event, it was canceled. Even though the event did not go on as anticipated, the school spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security.

According to Victor Gonzalez, a freshman at Berkeley, “They had security and barricades set up for four days straight… It was really scary because I’ve never seen so many cops in one place in my entire life. At one point, there was a bomb threat. They had SWAT, the bomb squad, Berkeley Police, they had everybody there.”

While the thought of intense riots at Dordt is almost unimaginable, the school has hosted a number of controversial speakers in the past. One of the most controversial public figures that has spoken at Dordt is the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. The college invited Trump and other Republican candidates from the 2016 election as a part of a series of speakers.

“We wanted them to come to our campus so that the students could be informed voters.” said Dordt College president Eric Hoekstra

Another time when the school allowed controversial groups on campus was in 2007 when the Equality Ride came to campus. The Equality Ride is a group of college students who visit college campuses across the country to promote acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. While they were on campus, Dordt set up two days of classroom presentations, dialogue and meals with students. During their time visiting the college, the bus was vandalized with graffiti, but Dordt’s maintenance department remedied the situation by assisting in washing off the graffiti. When asked about the experience Hoekstra said, “They were treated respectfully. Both sides were heard, and we all just had to agree to disagree.”

Hoekstra also went on to explaining that departments bring in speakers, sometimes ones who don’t share the college’s Christian beliefs, because they have a specific reason to invite them. Whether they have wisdom on a certain area of expertise or they are presidential candidates, the speakers come to Dordt because they have something worth sharing with students.

Tara Boer, Professor of Social Work, weighed in by saying, “My hope is that we raise up a generation of students that are taught how to think, not what to think… If we don’t hear from people who are different, we wouldn’t be fully preparing the students for life after college.”

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