The controversy surrounding the Vespers service seems rather ridiculous.
It disturbs me when Deerfield faculty and students oppose an event because it makes them feel “uncomfortable,” especially an event that is diverse in its religious and nonreligious readings. As a recent graduate of Deerfield and former conservative activist on campus, I can attest to the numerous times I felt uncomfortable as a student. I remember shifting in my seat as Howard Zinn, an outspoken communist, addressed us on Martin Luther King Day, or turning red in the face as required speaker Patch Adams slammed our troops overseas. By junior year, the political publication The Deerfield View had published a personal attack against me.
But soon I learned that feeling uncomfortable teaches us to learn and mature. As much as I squirmed in some of my classes when politics entered the discussion, I would not choose to go back and change those moments. When my conservative values were challenged at Deerfield, I was encouraged to seek out research and better develop my opinions. Overall, these internal conflicts arose at the endless list of liberal speakers that Deerfield required me to attend.
There appears to be a double-standard for faculty and students, which I find most hypocritical. Politics regularly enters discussion in the Deerfield classroom, almost always to be led by the super-liberal/socialist professor. Unfortunately, as much as I would love to say that each discussion is open-minded, the reality is that, much of the time, it is not. When faculty oppose events like Vespers in particular, it simply reaffirms that they can dish it out but they cannot take it.
I applaud Mr. Flaska and Dr. Curtis for their efforts because I truly believe that their attempt to make Vespers a required event was not an attempt to convert students to a religion. Instead, as they stated, it was an attempt to empower the community through reflection.
If Deerfield continues to make such events like Vespers optional because some students and faculty complain they would feel “uncomfortable,” then I ask that Deerfield abolish required events altogether. If some students are exempt under the notion of uneasiness, then all students should be exempt under the notion of uneasiness.
Please keep your ears open to the religious and nonreligious, the liberal and conservative; the minute we begin silencing one group, we begin to silence all.