Editorial: CMU should be able to handle a Richard Grenell – TribLIVE

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Politics is inherently a debate. Ideally, it is a tango of perspective and position, with one side advancing an idea and the other retreating until the music shifts and someone else takes the lead. And as everyone knows, it takes two to tango.

College should be similar.

You cannot go to college to learn what you already know. Well, you could, but that seems like a real waste of four years and a lot of student loans. The idea is to train your brain to expand its perimeters by hearing ideas you havent heard before and applying them to things you thought you knew, things you are learning and things you want to discover.

No one ever said you need to believe every idea that filters through a college lecturer. The idea of a diversity of opinion is not to follow what someone else believes but to discover what you do.

And thus it is unfortunate that politics and the American college campus two places where a diversity of opinion are part of the building blocks cannot seem to coexist.

For years, there have been attacks on each other. Conservatives knock campuses for liberal lockstep. Colleges return the favor by shouting down right-wing voices.

It has happened everywhere. UC Berkeley and protests against Ann Coulter. Charlie Kirks Turning Point USA and its Professor Watch List. Penn State was sued by a Georgia man for denying a request for a speech from white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. That suit was later dismissed by a judge.

The most recent example is the response to Carnegie Mellon University bringing in Richard Grenell as a senior fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy.

An openly gay conservative, Grenell is no stranger to the idea of controversy and polar dissent. Adept in social media and a voice in campaigns or administrations for multiple Republican presidents or nominees, there is no arguing the ambassadors bona fides. For the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency, he served as U.S. spokesman at the United Nations.

His positions, however, are something else. Allegations of sexism, misogyny and xenophobia have been made. As ambassador to Berlin, he was notably undiplomatic; in his short term this year as acting director of national intelligence, he was seen as primarily doing Trumps political bidding.

The university has had opposition to the appointment from faculty, staff and students, including an open letter signed by 200 individuals and a letter to the school administration from the Undergraduate Student Senate. The critics on Twitter included Gen. Michael Hayden, the Pittsburgh native who served as both CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush.

IPS director Kiron Skinner who has also worked in the Trump administration defended her hiring, saying she brought him on in the spirit of academic freedom. Opponents say she distorts the meaning.

Whether anyone agrees with Grenell or not does not mean there is nothing to learn from him, especially in the field of politics where half of the country doesnt agree with the other half. The IPSs mission is not just handing out degrees but to also build upon the universitys rich heritage of applying basic science to issues of public policy.

Science doesnt care about party or ideology. Science, like that tango, is a give and take of ideas and observations, and refusing to participate in a conversation because of someones politics is especially confusing in the arena of political science.

Without listening to those we dont agree with or even vehemently oppose we have no debate and we learn nothing. CMUs tuition is too high to not teach people to think for themselves by challenging ideas. Grenell, based on his experience to date, will be happy to engage in vigorous debate.

Categories:Editorials | Oakland | Opinion

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Editorial: CMU should be able to handle a Richard Grenell - TribLIVE

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