March 3, 2006

Sound and Fury

Thoughts, ideas, and discussions: These are things that consume the life of a typical U of C student. The university ought to be a haven where those ideas can be afforded the necessary protection for them to flourish. But this can go awry when people use this protection to drown out everyone else’s ideas, especially when there is no productive purpose for those ideas.

The Spartacus Youth Club is guilty of just this. They attend campus discussions not to debate but to monopolize and grandstand. Recently, members have plagued high-profile campus events like Geoffrey Stone’s luncheon and Cornell West’s Kent Lecture. In their attempts to promote a one-sided view of the world they have done nothing but disrupt and upset. This year has proven that U of C students can engage in constructive campus-wide debate. Some students clearly need to learn that grandstanding has no place in productive debate.

But even if we forget the counterproductive nature of their comments, it often seems that the actual ideas so rudely conveyed have no content except shock-value. While they are not all Spartacus members, the Reynolds Club protesters have not created any debate on whatever it was they were protesting. We all remember last Tuesday’s arrest, and maybe that Jews and swastikas were involved. But what has been achieved outside of front-page news is lost on all of us.

Now seems to be a time for self-reflection—an activity clearly foreign to some on campus. Are our statements doing justice to ourselves—and those around us—by inspiring respectful debate? Or are we throwing forth a lot of sound and fury that achieves nothing? Until they can logically answer these questions, groups like Spartacus might consider withholding from what is all too often disruption veiled as academic discourse.