EDITORIAL: Doing the Right Thing?

Recently, the Michigan Daily suspended for a week, Omar Mahmood, a longtime contributor to the Daily and a writer for the Michigan Review. A student complained about being made to feel “uncomfortable” due to Mahmood’s recent satirical piece for the Review, “Do the Left Thing.” It discusses the micro-aggressions that the small left-handed student minority faces at the University of Michigan. He was given an ultimatum to choose between writing for the Daily and writing for the Review. Due to Mahmood’s longtime connection with the Daily, he has chosen the former. We at the Review are saddened that he has had to face this unnecessary dilemma, fully respect his decision to no longer formally write for the Review, and fully support Mr. Mahmood and his satirical piece.

True, the Michigan Daily is within its rights due to its by-laws to force Mahmood into this position. However, one should remember that just because something is your right to do, that does not mean it is morally right to do it. The editors at the Daily have inherited a tradition spanning over a century of student journalism, and with that tradition, a noble vocation to inform students as young citizens and adult participants in our society. However, the current college zeitgeist of university administrations, rather than to primarily provide an education for the transmission of knowledge, is to provide a lifestyle for students as a business rather than an institution of learning. This habit only perpetuates adolescence and delays the oncoming and inevitable recognition that living a sheltered life is impossible. We should be adult enough to tolerate each other’s opinions. One may disagree with Mahmood’s piece, but that does not mean he should be punished for it.

The natural fact of life is that everyone will feel uncomfortable sometime or another by the views of other people—the views of some family members at Thanksgiving may make one feel uncomfortable. But no one has the right to never be made uncomfortable, and no one has the right to never feel offended. If anything, human beings develop by having to confront differing and offensive (as ambiguous as that word is) opinions. At the University of Michigan began the student free speech movement—some members of the Daily participated in what would become Students for a Democratic Society. But as Brendan O’Neil recently penned, “Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’.” The Daily in its decision has forsaken a great opportunity to support one of its longtime writers for penning a funny satirical piece on “social justice” and out-of-control political correctness. Instead, the Daily has abandoned its inheritance of free speech not just as a civic right, but also as a value in itself.

One member of the Review, after hearing this news, was reminded of quib from the late Bill Buckley, “Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.” It is cliché to complain of political correctness, but it is cliché because it so true that the university has been transformed from the bastion of free speech radical politics to politically correct identity politics. There was probably more intellectual diversity in the pre-reformation university than there is in the protective multiculturalist university today. But universities have been symbols of intellectual freedom and civic virtue because they embody the ability for people who disagree on important matters to live together and discuss their ideological differences. Therefore, the Review, in friendship, extends an open hand to the Daily—reinstate Omar Mahmood’s former freedom to write and take a stand for intellectual diversity at the University of Michigan.

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