By Johanna Mackin ‘20
Following my own experience attending the Nov. 18 lecture by Heather Mac Donald and the defenses I have heard for hosting a “conservative” speaker on campus, as a student at Holy Cross, I’d like to express my concern for the speaker’s message as well as the reasons why she was invited to speak here.
I attended the lecture in protest. I was not there because I believed anything Ms. Mac Donald said would persuade me to change my views on diversity. I walked out after 15 minutes in solidarity with hundreds of other students. I cannot claim I was there to engage in any dialogue entertaining the views of the speaker. But let’s not pretend that anyone from the Fenwick Review or Ms. Mac Donald herself was there to engage in constructive dialogue either.
I do not believe The Fenwick Review invited Heather Mac Donald to speak to the Holy Cross community because they believed her speech would begin or inform any true political dialogue, nor do I believe they invited her out of any hostility towards minority groups on campus. They invited Mrs. Mac Donald to speak simply because they could.
I believe the invitation, which was a legitimate expression of academic freedom and freedom of speech, was issued to promote controversial ideas The Fenwick Review feels are on par with the liberal ideas spread by speakers invited to campus by various other student organizations with whom they fundamentally disagree. The difference, however, between Heather Mac Donald and others, is that she was not invited for her academic expertise or background, seeing as she is not an academic by trade. I believe The Fenwick Review purposely selected her over others with more academically based messages because her opinions were more controversial. Moreover, she did not come with the intention of starting any open dialogue from which anyone could benefit. Ms. Mac Donald made her purpose known when she her began her speech with immediate attempts to discredit, humiliate, and deny the existence of minority students.
One of the very first statements made by Ms. Mac Donald called attention to how privileged every student on this campus is to have the education provided here. Wholeheartedly, I agree with this. What I do not agree with, and will aim to disprove, is her assertion that every student on this campus has the same access to resources and educational opportunities. For example, every alumnus of Holy Cross is allowed to get married in the St. Joseph Memorial Chapel…unless they are LGBTQ. Any student on this campus is allowed to apply to become a resident assistant… but accepting that position can negatively impact the financial aid a student receives. And, speaking of financial aid, Holy Cross very quietly decided last year to shift its admissions criteria from need-blind to need-aware, which will disproportionately disadvantage students of color seeking admittance into the College. Inequality is ingrained into the culture and administration on this campus.
In denying the persistent and pervasive inequality between races, sexes, and those of differing sexual orientation, Ms. Mac Donald is not just denying her privilege, she is abusing it. As Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist whom she also chose to quote in her lecture, once said, “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” The platform she is given by nature not only of her God-given rights but also by her privilege to access them, is one not every person can reach. I am not advocating for her silence or denying her right to have an opinion; I’m asking her to stop pledging her allegiance to the fight for academic freedom if her only contribution is denying that right to others.
Finally, if The Fenwick Review’s goal really is to promote academic freedom and constructive dialogue, next time they invite a speaker to campus, they could at least choose someone whose argument is not premised on the denial of truth.
Diversity is not the delusion, Ms. Mac Donald, equality is.