By Raleigh Fowler, Contributor
A group of about six and I went to the Trone Center lounge to watch a televised Bernie Sanders event targeted to students Wed., Oct. 28. This event was important to us because it was of great relevancy to not only my group of friends, but also the entire demographic of Furman.
We watched for around half an hour until we were greeted by one of the workers of the desk at the Trone Center. She informed us that the Republican debate that was also taking place that night had already been reserved for the television we were using. Under normal circumstances, this would have been entirely acceptable, and we even agreed to leave. However, after about ten minutes no one had showed up to view the Republican debate in the Trone Lounge.
My friends and I spoke to the other patrons of the sitting area and asked them if they were interested in watching the Republican debate, to which they informed us they had no interest. Seeing as there was no one in Trone seeking to view the Republican debate it seemed entirely fair that my group of friends and I could resume watching the Bernie Sanders event.
Up until this point we had been quiet and courteous to the others in the Trone Center, and did our best to make sure that we were not being in any way rude or confrontational about our political views. Since some time had passed, we figured that it would be appropriate if we could ask the Trone workers if we could change the channel back to Bernie’s speech. We politely informed the woman at the desk that no one in Trone was interested in watching the Republican debate and proceeded to ask if we could change it back. We even suggested that if anyone came in later to view the Republican debate that we would gladly change the channel, and would even watch the Republican debate with them.
Surprisingly, we were met with hostility, as she responded by saying that we did not need to be making such a big deal out of the situation. We contested, saying that we just wanted to be able to use the Student Center to enjoy a political speech comfortably and on a big screen. She replied with some frustration, telling us that we were being a nuisance and a disturbance.
In no way, shape or form, did we try to disturb anyone.We simply wanted to watch the speech in the student viewing area comfortably. After a final plea and appeal to her reasoning, she told us that we absolutely could not watch the Bernie Sanders event in the Trone Center, and told us that we should leave.
This deeply upset me. Furman was not facilitating me with opportunity to support my political beliefs, and I was also shocked that someone employed at the Trone Center could be so rude about the situation. Obviously the actions reflected by an individual worker at Trone are not necessarily indicative of the whole university, despite this, students should feel comfortable to view what they want, as long as it does not interfere with the interests of others, when they want.
This kind of engagement in the community and politics is central to what a liberal arts education means to me. When I applied to Furman, I applied only because I knew that a liberal arts education would offer much more opportunities to be informed about and engaged in the sociopolitical happenings.
We were not the College Democrats organization. We were not an organization campaigning to get Bernie elected. We were a group of friends looking forward to watching Bernie’s speech about students in the United States.
We, as Furman students, must ask ourselves, do we want to partake in a liberal arts education that encourages political participation and awareness, or one that deliberately inhibits us from feeling like we can express our political beliefs in a public, politically neutral space?
To my knowledge, this was not an issue of political bias. Furthermore, this isn’t an issue of politics–it’s an issue of Furman. Does Furman provide a liberal arts education? Shouldn’t we offer students the faculties to express themselves in a non-confrontational way?
I don’t know the name of the Trone worker, nor do I offer any resentment toward her. I am simply frustrated that I was unable to hear a speech from a prominent and popular politician that directly pertains to not only me, but to all of us as students.
Are we going to choose to negate others from political expression, or are we going to be a university that facilitates growth, political awareness and security in our community? The Furman webpage talks of the omnipresence of liberal arts, but just what does that really mean, anyway?