Tolerance is not enough

This week at Portland State University is the annual Queer Awareness Week. Students at PSU, no matter what their sexual preference, by day or by night, should be more than “aware” that this is happening here on our campus. They should hold this event in the highest regard for it shows the quality, diversity and vitality of our institution of higher learning.

This is a university whose student leaders, select teachers and administrators do not pale when confronted with the responsibility of recognizing the fundamental fairness and significance of representation for all students, no matter what their concern, persuasion or unique background.

As students it is our obligation to safeguard our fellow students from intolerance, the hate-filled barbs that accompany non-inclusion and the intellectual isolation that can result. The character of our education and, indeed, ourselves is framed by the sheer number of contrasting ideas and lifestyles and pursuits.

For “tolerance” is not nearly enough, “tolerance” hints at a begrudging roll of the eyes, a “them” versus “us” mentality that goes nowhere in its ability to contribute to the formation of an equitable and decent territory of scholarship and comprehension.

Though a commonly invoked phrase, “injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere,” is more true now than ever, as our planet and its people are more intimately connected with each other’s convictions and ideas. Of course, our search for individual liberty and civil justice does not happen everywhere, nor is it even close to being equal between nations, or even within this region, nor even in our own Oregon University System.

Oregon State University, in particular, is locked in its own struggle to become a university that recognizes and represents all of its students. As you read this, the university has failed to provide funding and space for a Queer Resource Center to serve its students.

A center such as this is fundamental to students as a whole, not just the self-identified “queer” population. It would function, like our “Queers and Allies” at PSU, as a clearinghouse of information, research and networking for all students who concern themselves with the modern and historical struggle of sexual minorities and the orders of sexualities, in general.

Oregon State University, regardless of it’s self-styled “conservative” reputation as culpability, is still delinquent in its efforts in being a modern university where the “free” exchange of ideas is the supposed cornerstone of the mission. Though the funds for the center are slowly being approved in the hierarchy of bureaucracies, their message is still the same: don’t ask, don’t tell, until we have satiated the student religious groups and a select number of OSU Republicans with delaying tactics and more “consideration.”

If it wasn’t for a large number of students who spoke out against exclusion and isolation, then the issue would never had been put on the theoretical table at all and OSU and its population with a hegemonic grip on the definition of “morality” and “equality,” and frighteningly enough, what constitutes “safety,” and what should be defined as “harassment” would never have been challenged at all. Again, “tolerance” is not nearly enough.