Campus Clash

Charlie Kirk speaks during Campus Clash of Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019.

On Tuesday, the Penn State chapter of the conservative organization Turning Point USA hosted pundits Charlie Kirk, Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle in 100 Thomas for the organization's most recent installment of the 'Campus Clash' tour.

The event comes over a month after Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke came to the HUB to speak to a crowd of equally excited and engaged students.

When the moderate former representative O'Rourke came to Penn State, many of the conservatives on campus and in the alumni base were quick to deride the decision as Penn State catering to liberals, and that the decision caused the university's perceived liberal bias to show.

Similarly, when it was announced that Kirk, Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle — all of whom now represent the Republican base, Trump-style conservatism — would be coming, many of the liberals on campus were similarly up in arms.

Therein lies the problem.

Without even listening to O'Rourke or Kirk or Trump Jr., people on both sides were quick to jump down each other's throats and dismiss or shout down the other side's argument.

This highlights the worsening discourse and fleeting presence of compromise in this current political climate.

As it stands now, liberals love to fight for everyone to have a say and claim to support free speech, but when it comes to allowing conservative speakers to come to campus, their hypocrisy starts to show — perpetuating the stereotype that liberals get upset at every little thing.

Maybe to some it's a case of them getting a dose of their own medicine, but to think that way demonstrates a lack of respect for the other side and one that while valid at times, should generally be hidden.

If you're a liberal, you're certainly allowed to not respect a conservative's position on gay rights or climate change the same way a conservative might not respect a liberal's position on tax cuts or defense spending.

But what can't happen is allowing that disdain for the other side to seep out in discussions — or shouting matches.

Instead, many of these debates should be rooted in carefully thought-out, well-researched and well-articulated policy ideas, not personal attacks or lack of recognition for the other side.

That brings us back to Kirk's, Guilfoyle's and Trump Jr.'s presence at Penn State.

There were disruptive students who interrupted their talk and were escorted out by the police.

But at least they were given a chance to air their grievances and at least they challenged the speakers in some capacity.

The questions submitted by the audience were pre-approved beforehand and had to be vetted, which raises concerns about censorship as well as if the panel was really up to being pressed on the issues — though there's an argument to be made that none of the three are lawmakers and thus don't have such answers.

However, this pre-screening of questions also seems like an awfully snowflakey thing to do as it enables the conservatives to strengthen their own bubble and to shout louder into their echo chamber.

You should want to be challenged on your belief and welcome opposition, if for no other reason than to ensure and strengthen your own positions instead of just walking around not being held accountable.

And by and large, it seems the three of them didn't do that.

Ultimately, in this era of ever-increasing polarization, policy and tact acknowledgment of the other side has to prevail to ensure meaningful, productive discourse isn't a thing of bygone eras.

Opinions Editor Jake Aferiat can be reached by email at jxa5415@psu.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Aferiat51.

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