December 3, 2015

Letter to the Editor: A Call for Increased Tact

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Re: “Letter to the Editor: A Response to Lee Bender ’84,” Opinion, Dec. 3

I would like to point out this is not a letter on racial issues; instead this is a piece on the use of rhetoric.

I am personally very embarrassed by the Student Assembly’s response to “Letter to the Editor: A Change for the Worse,” but not because I disagree with the intent of their letter, but with how their intents were expressed.

The response is an exemplary piece of an ad hominem, an emotionally fueled and a poorly expressed article. For example, the response begins with “With all due respect, no one asked for your opinion,” which is the equivalent of starting an argument with “your points are dumb.” Not only does the response begin at the level much below that of an Ivy League student, but it also champions the restriction of our most fundamental right, free speech. Why does it matter if someone asked or did not ask Mr. Bender? He has the right to send the letter regardless of whether his opinion is valid or not, especially since a Letter to the Editor is found under the OPINION tab of the Daily Sun. You are not encouraging a conversation, instead restricting it. Due to the complexities and the definition of equality, a conversation must be encouraged in order to allow a fair representation of all opinions, both popular and unpopular. As our representative voices, please encourage conversation and do not bash dialogue that is contradictory to your personal beliefs. I believe if we can rationally engage with others, we can find a solution to this serious problem. However, if we choose to shout down the opposition, we will never change hearts or minds.

Back to the inappropriate use of ad hominem rhetoric, these arguments are valid only when used to understand the connection between an individual and their moral or ethical claims; otherwise, it is a logical fallacy. While the response was able to express his bias by identifying him as a white male, it is evident that research on Mr. Bender was intended to discredit his argument due to the authors’ extensive research. Being accusatory and focusing on attacking the person rather than the argument itself weakens your well-intentioned points.

In summation, I would like for the Student Assembly, the people who represent all the students on Cornell’s campus, to please do a better job, which is to well represent our University and I ask that you, as the select few chosen to represent all students of Cornell, do exactly that. You are destroying your credibility as capable and respectable leaders. This is not what students saw when you were elected into your position. We saw people with open minds capable of understanding all points of view.

Again, I would like to stress this is not in support of Mr. Bender, but instead a criticism of the rhetoric used by the Executive Board of the Student Assembly.

David Lopez-Henriquez ’18

  • I agree completely with what you wrote. If less of this campus was apathetic about the SA, I’m sure its members would be less idiotic and more representative of campus opinion as a whole. As it stands almost all of the SA members are tremendous jokes

  • Cornell Alum 1983

    Thank you Mr. David Lopez-Henriquez ’18 for restoring a degree of hope in this alumni about the types of individuals being educated at Cornell.

  • Current Student

    David, I think you make some great points. I just wanted to point out as a matter of clarification, however, that all of those who signed the letter are not members of the Student Assembly. This certainly does not detract from your statement. I just thought it was important to note.

  • Cornell Alum 2012

    Well said. The Sun, in general, needs to do a better job as well.

    • Cornell Alum

      I think The Sun has acted well in the case, as they have in coverage of previous multifaceted issues. They print opinions from both sides and some commentary on the topic as a whole. This is the purpose of a campus paper, no?

      David, well written. The response to Mr. Bender’s opinion was an embarrassment to all Cornell students. It was petty and trite, written at a level of quality far below what one would expect from Ivy League students. It resembled something one would find on a high schooler’s rant-laden Tumblr rather than a rebuttal penned by half a dozen students who are enrolled at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

      Their voices obviously deserve to be heard. Yet they did themselves – and others who support their views — no favors by resorting to a childish, passive-aggressive tone to convey their displeasure with Mr. Bender.

  • Italia DeVeiga

    Faith in humanity restored. Thank you, David.

  • Mayor McCheese

    It’s nice to see some level of respect for the expression of diverse opinions.

  • AC ’96

    Thank you for demonstrating that some Cornell students are still capable of demonstrating maturity and intelligence. I’m not saying I agree with Mr. Bender, but totally agree the response was not up to the standard I’d expect from a Cornell grad.

    Class of 1996

  • Tyler L C, A&S 09

    After The Empire Strikes Back, here comes The Return of The Jedi… Thanks you David for restoring balance to the force.

    … And well done Cornell Daily Sun for airing all sides 🙂

  • PE

    Although their answer was not construed properly, neither was the initial post of Mr. Bender. Mr. Bender is just as guilty of the same ad hominem attacks (“go back to your books and study”) that you accuse the people that, as one of the commenters mentioned, are not the actual Student’s Assembly.

    Don’t get me wrong, I 1) support the movement, 2) condemn the rhetoric of the Student’s Assembly, but 3) also condemn the rhetoric of Mr. Bender, a person who has graduated in ’83. He is 30 years senior to the students now and he addresses them with such disrespect? For shame.

    As a final point, we have had 3 published articles that are all ad hominem in essence. Thus, we have effectively displaced the point from the issue of racism to the issue of white people talking about racism. Yay.

    • A SHA’79

      PE, “white people talking about racism” is not allowed? This is a time when dialogue is not only helpful but required.

      • PE

        Of course it’s allowed. But instead of speaking about the way white people talk about racism, we should just talk about racism.

        • A SHA’79

          Thanks for the clarification.

        • Cornell Alum

          But one conversation can easily lead to another. We saw white university employees talking about racism at Mizzou — those same employees then tried to stir up a mob to physically remove a non-white journalist from covering the event (a violation of said journalist’s 1st amendment rights).

          This is why people are apprehensive when it comes to white people talking about racism, and why we need to also think about HOW they’re talking about racism. Are they having an honest discussion? Are they trying to forcibly silence opposition?

          It is, of course, important to make strides on racial dialog. But when certain rhetorical tactics actively repress certain viewpoints, we have to also have a dialog about the manner and nature of the discourse itself.

          • Cornell Alum 1983

            How quickly the Mizzou incident descended for fascist calls of “I need so muscle over here.”

  • Jonathan Panter

    Thank you. As a former Sun columnist, I was appalled and embarrassed to see such a disparaging piece of vitriol make it into my alma mater’s paper. The phrase “nobody asked for your opinion” is not only the epitome of immaturity that one expects on a middle school playground, it is also antithetical to the free exchange of ideas that an institution of higher learning is supposed to uphold. Additionally, the respondents merely substantiated the letter writer’s indictment of their generation by engaging in unnecessary mudslinging. And lastly, it was poorly written! Let us set a standard of civil debate to which we can all be proud to hold ourselves.

  • Jonathan

    These white tears are delicious.

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