Letter-to-the-editor: Prager speech

To the Editor,

I’m writing The UW Branding Iron today to express concern for the incoming speaker to the University of Wyoming this week, Dennis Prager. I’m not writing this letter to antagonize or critique the speaker’s beliefs nor to start a discussion on the first amendment or any citizen’s access to free speech. I am writing this letter to express concern about the safety of the students of the University of Wyoming, as well as the surrounding Laramie community, and the state of Wyoming as a whole. Mr. Prager has openly dismissed the problem of rape, has shown widespread distain for Muslim communities, and has offered up opinions about believing that homosexuals should not share the same rights as heterosexuals. Regardless of these personal beliefs, Mr. Prager makes his opinions public further propagating dangerous proceedings. His doctrine allows people who have loathing towards marginalized groups to have a platform to express their detestation. The University of Wyoming supports and is home to a diverse community of students, including international students. The University of Wyoming has also seen an increase of sexual assault reports this year. I worry that Mr. Prager’s stance on these important issues could condone sexual assault and other hate-related and violent crimes. The University of Wyoming’s endorsement of Mr. Prager gives disenfranchised groups a reason to feel unsafe in their community. Even worse, the University’s funding of the speaker through RSO’s funds (and student dues) is an extra slap in the face, not only to people who passionately disagree with the speaker’s beliefs but also to communities that experience widespread oppression and fear. The last thing that Wyoming needs to do is reject diversity. We are in a place where Wyoming needs to revitalize its economy and create new opportunities for diversification. We now have the chance to change the state of Wyoming by welcoming other cultures, as well as creating an environment of acceptance and diversity, and allowing for opportunities for talent and skill to move to a state that does not condone a philosophy of discrimination. If Wyoming continues the path of creating a climate of fear, discrimination and hatred, we will find ourselves even farther away from our goals of becoming sustainable and self-sufficient. I also ask readers to consider the state of our world right now. There have been two tragic mass killings within the past two weeks, do we really want to support the presence of a speaker that incites hostility towards particular groups of people? I urge the University community, faculty, staff, and residents of Laramie to make it clear that there is no place in Wyoming for someone who is a proponent of hate and aggression towards our neighbors, friends, and community members. Join us for a peaceful protest this Thursday at 5:30pm outside the Education Auditorium and submit your thoughts and concerns about this speaker to ASUW.

 

Monika Leininger

Mleinin1@uwyo.edu

Comments

comments

1 Comment

  1. The author of this letter to the editor has given us quite a lot to think about regarding Dennis Prager coming to campus. I would like to unpack that a bit and try to clarify how I interpreted their communication by looking at their opening statement and then the body of their argument. These interpretations and opinions are my own unless specifically noted to be those of the author (use of quotation marks) of the letter to the editor.

    1. In the opening statement, the author states “I’m not writing this letter to antagonize or critique the speaker’s beliefs nor to start a discussion on the first amendment or any citizen’s access to free speech.” Shortly thereafter, and throughout the communication, the author goes on to do exactly that which they said they were not doing:
    a. “Mr. Prager has openly dismissed the problem of rape, has shown widespread distain for Muslim communities, and has offered up opinions about believing that homosexuals should not share the same rights as heterosexuals.”
    b. “I worry that Mr. Prager’s stance on these important issues could condone sexual assault and other hate-related and violent crimes.”
    c. “…the University’s funding of the speaker through RSO’s funds (and student dues) is an extra slap in the face, not only to people who passionately disagree with the speaker’s beliefs but also to communities that experience widespread oppression and fear.”
    d. “I urge the University community, faculty, staff, and residents of Laramie to make it clear that there is no place in Wyoming for someone who is a proponent of hate and aggression towards our neighbors, friends, and community members.”

    2. In the body of the author’s argument, they make certain claims which on their face would appear to be admirable. The author claims that (paraphrasing) “diversity is good!” in their opinion:

    a. First, a definition of ‘diversity’ since it was not provided or defined by the author:
    i. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diverse
    ii. Definition of diversity (plural diversities):
    1. The condition of having or being composed of differing elements
    2. Variety; Especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization
    3. Programs intended to promote diversity in schools
    4. An instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities: an instance of being diverse (diverse: differing from one another/distinct/unlike)
    5. A diversity of opinion

    b. Examples of author’s claims in support of diversity:
    i. “The last thing that Wyoming needs to do is reject diversity. “
    ii. “Wyoming needs to … create new opportunities for diversification.”
    iii. “We now have the chance to change the state of Wyoming by welcoming other cultures, as well as creating an environment of acceptance and diversity, and allowing for opportunities for talent and skill to move to a state that does not condone a philosophy of discrimination.”

    3. Unfortunately, the author then goes on to completely contradict their claims in support of diversity (again, paraphrasing: “Actually, diversity is bad!”)
    a. Examples where the author contradicts their claims to support diversity:

    i.“Mr. Prager has openly dismissed the problem of rape, has shown widespread distain for Muslim communities, and has offered up opinions about believing that homosexuals should not share the same rights as heterosexuals.”
    ——1. The author is implying that this diversity of thought/opinion is bad and should be discouraged.

    ii. “…the University’s funding of the speaker through RSO’s funds (and student dues) is an extra slap in the face, not only to people who passionately disagree with the speaker’s beliefs but also to communities that experience widespread oppression and fear.”
    ——1.First part of argument explicitly states that if a speaker’s opinion is not universally accepted it is an insult to those who do not agree. Implies that we should be free from offense.
    ——2. Second part seems to be an unrelated tangent: It is unclear who these communities are or how they are affected or harmed by someone having an opinion. This is an unsubstantiated appeal to emotion which detracts from the argument, potentially fatally.

    iii. “If Wyoming continues the path of creating a climate of fear, discrimination and hatred, we will find ourselves even farther away from our goals of becoming sustainable and self-sufficient.”
    ——1. Author makes the claim that Wyoming is actively pursuing something awful without substantiating that claim, other than implying that allowing diversity of thought to exist publicly is wrong.
    ——2. It is unclear what allowing diversity of thought has to do with the economy of the state or how it would harm it. This also detracts from the argument through the lack of clearly supportive rationale. I would actually argue that more opinions and ideas would enable the potential for a better economy but that’s just my opinion.

    iv. “I urge the University community, faculty, staff, and residents of Laramie to make it clear that there is no place in Wyoming for someone who is a proponent of hate and aggression towards our neighbors, friends, and community members.”
    ——1. This concluding section of the letter contradicts everything which preceded it. Finally, the author is being honest about their true intentions: They are not supportive of actual, honest diversity. Evidently the only acceptable form of diversity is that which aligns with the author’s point of view and anything else is not welcome. The author should have been honest from the start and opened with that statement.

    I would just like to conclude this by saying that while I disagree with the author’s apparent true intentions, I fully support their right to make their opinion public. In my opinion, diversity is a good thing and I hope someday the author will understand and truly share that sentiment instead of making faux claims or talking out of both sides of their mouth. In reading their communication, I learned of a point of view which was unfamiliar to me and, as a result, have benefited from it- I have learned more about myself and other people. There were issues with the writing style which may have hindered my understanding and if so, I invite the author to clarify that failure on my part in a response to my comment.

    (The above was written in MS Word and I apologize for how poorly it translated to this web page.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


Fill in the Captcha *