We talk a lot at Geneseo about being an accepting community that values the diversity of our student body. The school’s diversity statement reads, “Diversity stands as one of Geneseo's core institutional values, framing the College's sense of community and fostering respect and appreciation for the broad spectrum of backgrounds, beliefs, talents, interests, and life choices of students, faculty, and staff.” I’m afraid, however, that we’ve collectively fallen far short of this ideal. This is not an administrative problem—this problem lies within the student body. We do a great job of accepting individuals of different genders, races and sexual orientations. Unfortunately, we shun and ostracize people with different backgrounds and beliefs. We become so entrenched in the small college community we live in and we have trouble understanding the views of others.
This problem exhibits itself when we talk about issues like abortion. Many Geneseo students have no problem with abortion and are extremely pro-choice. Other students have a moral issue with abortion and are pro-life. In my experience, pro-choice students have ridiculed and ostracized pro-life students at Geneseo because of their beliefs. We as students need to recognize the legitimacy of everyone’s opinions. Abortion is not a black and white issue—both sides have valid arguments and there isn’t necessarily an absolute right.
I often feel this way as a Christian on campus—I rarely talk about my faith with other students because I feel like I will be mocked. I’m afraid that people will see me as a religious nut just because of what I believe in. Whether or not my worries would actually manifest if I were more open about my faith, the problem remains that I feel uncomfortable sharing an important aspect of myself with the Geneseo community.
I am not comparing my struggle to that of a transgender student or even of a Muslim student at a conservative university. The hell that those students may go through is not something that I would ever claim to know. For a campus like Geneseo that boasts about its acceptance of everyone, however, any student feeling uncomfortable because of their demographics represents a big problem.
Another form of this problem manifests in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights. On this issue, there is a clear right: members of the LGBTQ+ community absolutely deserve equal civil liberties and protection under the law. It is important to remember, however, that not everyone has the same access to education on this topic as we have at Geneseo.
The concept of gender as fluid is often a confusing and foreign notion to people who have been taught their whole lives that gender is binary. Many government forms using “gender” interchangeably with “sex” reinforce this. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t condemn people’s beliefs because they were taught something else their whole lives; we should work to educate them without shaming them.
This is not to say that every student at Geneseo is like this. I remember when I first grasped the concept of someone being transgender—I had a long conversation with former Lamron Opinion editor junior Jes Heppler and she kindly explained as much as she could to me. I learned a lot from her and our conversation changed my view on a subject.
Quite frankly, this is where Geneseo students need to improve: we need to be more open to new ideas and viewpoints that are different from what we’ve been taught. Just because someone is pro-life doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from their point of view. In the same vein, just because someone doesn’t share your faith doesn’t mean theirs is any less valid. Everybody’s opinions deserve to be respected—whether they align with the collegiate majority or not.