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