At Virginia Tech, we are encouraged as students to uphold some of the University’s Principles of Community values. These values include the well-known concept of “Ut Prosim,”or that I may serve, but also the lesser-known concept of civility. On Virginia Tech’s platform, InclusiveVT, it is stated that the school encourages “open expression within a climate of civility, sensitivity and mutual respect.” The message and definition of civility that Tech is providing is great on the primary surface level, but, when examining it closer, flaws become evident.
These flaws originate with the different applications of civility. In the modern world, civility is mainly promoted and utilized in public discourse due to the dividing and polarizing topics that are often discussed. Here at Tech, however, civility is promoted to keep students in check and restrict them from questioning the actions and decisions made by superiors such as President Sands or the Board of Visitors. Some of the questionable decisions include the continuous tuition hikes and Mark Daniel Neuhoff debacle that divided students and school officials.
These issues, among others, should not be taken lightly. Moreover, students should not feel like they must hide their true opinion on matters just because it might come off as disrespectful to those who made the mistake. Instead, they should be encouraged by those above them to share how they honestly feel and whether or not they want change to be made. In turn, this will aid in creating a better, more transparent campus and community that will benefit all parties involved.
This will only occur if the concept of civility is altered for the better.
While it is important to respect the opinions of others, presenting a completely honest take is equally important in bringing change to matters. Although President Sands and the Board of Visitors are in positions of greater power and responsibility, they too must be held accountable. This accountability is not possible within the present “climate of civility” that ensures that strong and ambitious opinions are subdued while less driven and weaker perspectives are promoted. Instead, the less ambitious opinions that maintain the status quo are encouraged since those in charge know that they will not have to work to create a better system for everyone. Furthermore, if you alter or conceal how you truly feel about a topic, your desired outcome will obviously not become reality.
We as students must make sharing our true, unmasked opinions a common event rather than a rare occurrence.