September 22, 2005

Students Find Forum in Voices

Print More

We’ve all seen the big red arches that bear the words “Open doors, open hearts and open minds.” While some students may choose to idly walk through these structures, some have considered their meaning a little more closely, choosing to actively promote the idea of openness.

Lauren Beene ’07 and Josh Grundleger ’07 are two such students. They joined together to create the magazine Voices. The magazine aims to be an unbiased and open forum, in which people from all political and personal slants can present their opinions. Beene and Grundleger intend to involve themselves and their readers in a rational dialogue, rather than a passionate a debate.

As Beene, editor of the magazine, stated, “dialogue is a lot more productive than debate because debate can polarize people – they don’t take the time to sit back and analyze and evaluate … their thoughts may be just as valid as theirs, they’re just coming from a different place.”

That is the point of Voices – Beene and Grundleger intended for it to be a channel through which people not only hear opinions that differ from theirs, but also, and perhaps most importantly, a way for people to understand these varying opinions.

The idea for the magazine emerged in a class that the two shared concerning the Middle East crisis (which, in fact, is the topic of the magazine’s first issue). In it, the two related, the professor presented one view as correct, and all others as offensive and wrong.

As Beene phrased it, “such an attitude not only makes students [who do not have the ‘right’ point of view] feel ashamed, but it aggravates the situation by putting them on the defensive. That makes a particular person feel like they are different, and by feeling different, then you think ‘there’s something wrong with how I’m feeling,’ then you get frustrated and lash out.”

Beene said that a vicious cycle that exists, in which intolerance leads to defensiveness, which, in turn, leads to more intolerance. When the two students sat in class and saw this cycle unfold, they decided that as opposed to being consumed by it, they would try to put an end to it. Voices was their means of achieving this end.

Yet there is more history to the origins of this magazine than one class; both Beene and Gunslinger had personal motivations that had existed before they entered the classroom.

In Beene’s case, she said she has always possessed an innate interest and concern for the ideas of others, so much so, in fact, that she can rarely affirmatively stand by just one belief.

She said, “I’ve always been interested in how different people see things differently, I’ve always found myself in the middle regarding pretty much everything. I have trouble identifying myself with different groups of people because I had a hard time not identifying myself with other groups of people.”

Beene’s approach to the magazine seems to one of, while perhaps not idealism, certainly optimism.

There seems to be a hope that perhaps readers of this magazine will be able to see the world through more than one pair of eyes.

While Beene takes an approach to the magazine that seems to be tinted with empathy and understanding, Grundleger’s approach is much more pragmatic, but no less compelling. When Grundleger, who is the vice president and assitant editor of Voices, came to Cornell, he had his first experience in being the “political minority.” While being in the minority did not necessarily unnerve Grundleger, others’ intolerant attitude towards him did.

“I always like to say that Cornell is in this isolated little bubble,” Grundleger said, “And people don’t realize that there is legitimacy to other perspectives.”

And while Grundleger yearned to express his own political views, he had difficulty finding a means to do so. Though some publications agreed with his politics, none of them were free from bias.

While Grundleger did believe in much of what these publications had to say, he knew that partaking in them would be counter-productive; his voice would be lost in the very extremism that he found so offensive.

“There’s such a majority minority culture – I saw how a lot of my peers became really reactionary and fought back. In principle I often agree with a lot their perspective, but they way they go about it – it’s not constructive.”

So because Grundleger wanted his voice to be heard effectively, and because Beene wanted an environment in which people could better understand each other, Voices was born.

So even if students walk without a second though under the big red archways that now dot the campus, one can hope they have not left their copy of Voices lying around the Ivy Room. One can hope that they are holding a copy of it in their hands, and plan to read the entire thing, and, perhaps, plan to understand someone else’s point of view.

Archived article by Lauren Hirsch
Sun Staff Writer