Although Elon University is an amazing campus, we are not perfect. We are a relatively young university that has had the good fortune to be thrust into the spotlight in the past few years thanks to our ambitious and driven administrators, devoted faculty and excellent students. With rapid growth, there are bound to be growing pains. One of those pains might be acceptance, both in the good and bad sense of the word.
When Elon did not have enough student outrage to oust Chick Fil A, we lost an opportunity to show we do not accept discrimination. That struggle was an image of old anti gay ways versus progressive acceptance of equal rights. Having a popular chicken place right on campus (when students can go down the street if they choose) is a reminder that accepting discrimination in any form is not worth a fast food chicken sandwich. The message we sent through our lack of outrage is that we accept derogatory views of homosexuals and prefer to keep things the same. However, even more detrimental to the future of our university than these public debates, is the unspoken issues such as racism and bigotry that occur on a day-to-day basis. We must ask ourselves, are we truly the accepting campus that we like to say we are?
As a place of learning, Elon strives to accept the differences of the members in its community. We are expected to do the same. Yet when we see the Confederate flag in the window of a student's room and we do not speak up, are we condoning the offensive symbol of that flag as acceptable? Do we have a responsibility to explain the flag used before the Civil War denotes slavery as acceptable to some people? The South has a much richer heritage than the prewar flag.
The word acceptance is a double-edged sword. Many companies, organizations and universities promote this word as a way to portray an environment of tolerance and peace. However, acceptance can also mean going with the status quo and settling for what the environment around us offers. Here at Elon University, we often find ourselves tip-toeing around this word. Although it may be true everyone has a right to express him or herself freely, we must also recognize that as a private institution, we can fashion a standard of speech that reflects tolerance in our everyday lives. Our university can promote free speech but at the same time, we can curtail speech that causes harm to others. If Elon were to draft a more progressive and focused speech code, it would move the student body into a more accepting environment. Yes, this may be viewed as curtailing free speech but curtailing hate speech will foster an improved environment here on campus.
We are more than lovely new buildings and a place to get a degree and move on. We are a community of lifelong learners with a chance to cement our growing school as a shining beacon. Elon is too young and vibrant to accept old ways. Change has worked well for Elon and a change in the speech policy would work well too.