Respecting Other People’s Views in University

Recently, I had an encounter with one of my teachers regarding a topic selection for one of my assignments. The paper had no subject related guidelines aside from conforming to university policy and being an area of passion or interest. I had chosen to write about Christianity within my age group. As my teacher scanned through the proposals, I saw a look of utter dissatisfaction and my heart sank to my stomach. What followed was a lengthy and upsetting exchange in which I felt pressured to change my topic. I had left that conversation upset, feeling like I had been judged and most notably, shamed.

This was one of the first times in my life where I had experienced someone taking away my freedom of speech and my ability to express something I wanted to share. I felt silenced as my work was rejected and falsely termed ‘discriminatory’; while other passion pieces would be published, mine would not. In a society that prides itself as being accepting and multicultural, encompassing values such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I find it quite peculiar how this seems to manifests in our institutions. When the time comes, our views, thoughts and opinions of the world are often rejected, negatively labeled, or harshly ridiculed. To respect someone else’s views regardless of their scope or topic does not force you to agree. In fact, should you disagree, you need not condemn the other. In times where our systems of thought do not align with others, it is important to contextualize rather than patronize.

Photo by Tiago Felipe Ferriera

When I observe individuals trying to hierarchically categorize or privilege certain systems of belief, I recognize that there is something inherently wrong at work. It is through this act of ‘privileging’ that we insinuate we are better than someone else because of what we believe. Aside from being hugely self-centred, this reeks of entitlement and pride. Whether this has been enacted on you or otherwise, this process entails (often misinformed) judgement. Therefore, it is important that we be conscious of these biases and be respectful in our actions. It is important to recall that we all interact with the world differently as we are all comprised of different experiences. Therefore, what we choose to believe and how we make meaning can vary.

Photo by Jon Tyson

In a university setting, there are all kinds of people from all walks of life. While there may be large parts of our lives that differentiate us, there are other large aspects of our lives that bridge the gaps - take being a student in university as an example. Because we all share this identity – and we know the struggle – who are we to judge our peers?  Understanding is the gateway to respect. When you understand someone’s context you can open your mind to growth and that’s what university is all about. Facilitating these conversations with our desire to learn is just one way we can acknowledge our differences better. To all those struggling out there, you are not alone. Good luck.