Stifled Discourse?

No matter what one may have thought of his address at Monday’s All-School Meeting or the content of his work, it is undeniable that Spike Lee provoked discourse and impassioned debate among all members of our community. However, that debate was only possible because of the impromptu question and answer session that focused on Mr. Lee’s views on racial issues rather than pedantic points on his filmmaking. The question and answer session initially began as a panel that presented student-produced queries that were preselected. Rather than informing the community of his often-contentious social viewpoints, these questions focused on specific elements in Mr. Lee’s films. Once he opened the questions to the audience, Mr. Lee geared the meeting towards a more meaningful and relevant discussion. The subsequent questions asked provoked dialogue and rendered both the address and the ensuing community discourse worthwhile. Last May, several students debated affirmative action in the Commentary section of The Phillipian, eliciting a Letter to the Editor from Dr. Christopher Jones, Instructor in History. Dr. Jones closed the discourse with an authoritative and instructive letter written in support of affirmative action. Since then, however, there has been minimal formal discussion on affirmative action. Only until Spike Lee’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day address did the discussion reemerge from dormancy. Mr. Lee’s assertion that race is a merit has led to a heated discussion around campus that has spilled onto Page A3 of this week’s Phillipian. It has also revived the campus-wide discussion about affirmative action that began last spring. But that address would not have produced such a result if it weren’t for the open question and answer session. MLK Day is a holiday held in celebration of landmark progress in the field of race relations. What should the crux of any MLK Day speaker’s speech be then but race? We ask these speakers to come to campus to talk about race in today’s context. Spike Lee was a desirable candidate not only because his films have been part of several class curriculums, but also because he is a well-known African American rights activist. When it comes down to it, we brought Mr. Lee to address the community not because he is a filmmaker, but because he is an activist. Mr. Lee accomplished what we brought him here to do in terms of sparking community dialogue, but only after student provocation. The essential question is why was that impromptu student participation not planned to begin with? This editorial represtents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXII.