Volume 96, Issue 100
Tuesday, April 8, 2003

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Western: a model of acceptance

Between Lines
Tait Simpson
Opinions Editor

I think my teacher was high.

Much like any time that one suspects someone of being on another cloud, there are few sure-fire ways of knowing with any degree of certainty.

It was the last class of the year and the professor put aside the day's lecture notes and stated that this would be a different sort of class. More than fine with me, I thought.

What followed was a close reinactment of Robin William's performance in Dead Poets Society, as the teacher told us we had to "free our minds," "follow our hearts" and make up our own minds about how the world should work.

Because the high degree of student participation created when the potential dicussion topics were suddenly blown wide open, a heated discussion commenced, featuring topics such as the legalization of marijuana, the war in Iraq, tuition increases, Canadian University athletics, globalization, as well as a student reference to Bush 3:16.

What could unite these issues? They are united only because they are the issues of our time, our generation. They are important, substantial issues – ones that transcend faculties and ages. We engage in them because what we say about them speaks to how we want to live. They drive us to put aside our homework to craft letters and learn more about the subject matter in the hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of their complexities.

This class – as eclectic a group of students as I've been priviledged to sit with at Western – and the discussion they engadged in seemed like a microcosm of what has been expressed in writing in The Gazette's Opinions section throughout 2002/2003.

Much like the letters that have run, and not run, in the Opinions section, the style of expression varied widely. Some like a good one-liner that sums it all up; others prefer to throw their entire bank of knowledge into a letter only to be cut short by their own fatigue. Short or long, academic or not, firsthand or fifth – the letters led the writers to a better understanding of the issues, not the other way round.

As our class wound down, our professor, in a climatic conclusion, said that we, as Western students, needed to shed our reputation as the country's most apathetic school when it came to social activism.

Having followed the majority of campus issues this year, I have come to believe that Western's approach to social activisim, its approach to diversity and its openness to a full spectrum of opinions is anything but apathetic.

Western is a leading model of how students should behave. It's striking to walk with a Western student around campus and see their reaction to the daily multitude of cultural, social and lifestyle displays.

Students embrace the diversity here at this school, unlike other schools that are deemed to be more socially engaged, like York and Concordia, Western allows everyone to speak. As students, we listen to everyone, sometimes stopping to watch, other times simply walking by.

As a group, Western students nod in agreement as prayers are conducted in the University Community Centre. They watch and listen as Stockwell Day, Daniel Pipes and Dalton McGuinty come and speak. There is room for everyone is this sea of students.

I've come to have nothing but the highest regard for our sea of students and the atmosphere in which we learn. Having now been voted off the proverbial Gazette island, I'm excited for a full-time re-entry into that sea – it's probably time.




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