Stephan Kapustka, QU Young Americans for Liberty
We don’t know much about Mr. Montalvo.
We only really know that he was the sophomore class president and that he was recently impeached for comments he made at “Your Voice, Our Quinnipiac” because his “lived experiences” contradicted those of other students.
We don’t know exactly what he said, but we find it hard to believe that it was so egregious that it would necessitate removing him from office.
This is because most of the criticism he received was not rebutting what he said, but outrage that he contradicted another student’s claims, particularly on the grounds that the other students were minorities and he is a “white male.”
This dynamic deserves closer inspection. Lived experiences, by their very nature, are subjective.
You cannot, by their nature, simply accept one and reject the other purely on the basis that a speaker is a certain race or gender.
Unless, of course, you view the opinions of certain races to be of more inherent value than others, a perspective that seems self-evidently racist, likely because it is.
But this seems to be the position some students have taken.
We would urge them to put the shoe on the other foot and reconsider; swap the races around and ask yourself if you are equally angry.
One student that the Chronicle quoted who supported the impeachment of Mr. Montalvo, Camilo Lemos, described his comments as follows:
“…a slap in the face to inclusivity… That is the exact opposite of what Quinnipiac stands for. What we allowed on Monday, because he continued to speak, was a discussion on how the experiences of a white male could mirror the experiences of people that have faced racial bias their entire life,” Lemos said.
This critique is rather odd, considering that the person making it doesn’t appear to believe that removing somebody from office for sharing his life story could possibly harm inclusivity at all.
And we find it strange that if this person is so sure of their positions, why would he be so afraid of letting Montalvo speak?
Why not simply rebut the things he says and expose his wrongheadedness for all the world to see?
It seems this person would have been more happy if Mr. Montalvo had simply shut up and never said what he thought.
How can you possibly square that perspective with a desire for a more inclusive campus? But more troubling is the angle of racial subjectivism.
Human civilization is predicated on the notion that we can empathize with people who are unlike us.
It is assumed that because this person is a white male, they are a persona non grata on these particular issues.
I’m sure many will judge this piece the same way. But it ignores that this is a very basic fallacy; ad hominem.
You aren’t attacking the argument, you’re attacking the person.
Suppose a minority were to say all of the things Montalvo did. What would be the basis of criticism then? There seems to be a healthy dose of Orwellian doublethink going on here.
Consider the following quote from Ian Zeitlin, senior class representative and one of the students involved in the impeachment:
“I think that, although we should never silence a voice in a room…I don’t think someone who holds those opinions should be put in a position of power such as sophomore class representative,” Zeitlin said.
We do not believe in silencing voices in the room, but we’re going to use all our power to attempt to quash this voice because he holds the wrong opinions?
To be clear, impeachment proceedings do not mean that Mr. Montalvo will be removed from office.
We would recommend that all people involved with said proceedings shoot down this frivolous exercise of censure.
The only possible outcome this would have is a further chilling effect of speech on campus.
Yet another student called for further conversation on the issue:
“We (SGA) had briefly talked about creating a campus-wide event where both sides (would be) politically speaking on how we feel about the political climate right now,” SGA Vice President Jacqueline Schmedel said. “It would consist of faculty, staff and students…to be able to show that not only are both opinions here, but they are both valid”
This is an admirable goal, but wholly unlikely to go anywhere if this climate of fear is allowed to persist.
Why would anybody show up if they feared retaliation for their perspectives? We urge those who want a productive dialogue on campus to avoid engaging in these below the belt attacks and debate the ideas.