June 6, 2020

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The Reason for Our Silence

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To the Editor:

The Cornell Republicans executive board has been pained and anguished by the unjust killing of George Floyd. His death, the latest in a long series of injustices, has brought to the fore critical, and painful, conversations about police brutality and race. As the leadership of the Republican Party at Cornell, we have witnessed the intense discussion, action and outrage this tragedy has provoked. Realizing, however, that our positions might not align fully with those which have received widespread approval, we chose to take the present moment as one in which we would listen and reflect. While there are of course several policy measures we support, such as prohibiting chokeholds and reforming police unions, we thought it better to take this moment of national pain for reflection on how we can better live up to our founding ideals.

Some may question our decision to remain silent, and we understand that. Our silence was never meant to imply indifference to the injustice in our country. We believed that an expression of discontent with current popular opinions, such as defunding police departments, would not yield productive results for the current campus discourse. Seeking first to do no harm, and to not create tension in a time when we should all be actively listening to affected communities, we chose not to weigh in.

Assuming the worst of us, however, Andrew Lorenzen ’22, in his most recent column, suggested we were acting in bad faith. He claims that because we “are so utterly aware of the indefensibility of any political position besides support and empathy” we have “no interest in even attempting to defend whatever position [we] hold as an organization.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We believe in rigorous debate and the free exchange of ideas, but we also believe there is a time and place for those things. In the midst of national strife and grief, we felt it inappropriate to provoke a campus debate on topics sensitive and personal to so many of our fellow students. Although our critics may contend otherwise, we stand in firm solidarity with those who mourn. We find all acts of injustice despicable, and know that racially motivated acts of violence are indelible scars on the flesh of our nation.

But regardless of the cause of our initial silence, we have been called to speech and will set the record straight. Mr. Lorenzen accuses us of lying to the Cornell community about our commitment to “good-faith debate.” But this is a claim without any basis; the Cornell Republicans have always stood steadfastly for free speech and open discourse. We have always believed that free speech is essential to education and the advancement of society. We have always sought to engage in good faith with our peers and always will. In this particular instance, our silence was motivated by respect for the tense campus climate, not fear of defending our principles.

Mr. Lorenzen goes on to make several further allegations and arguments, which similarly lack any factual or logical foundation. Quoting a Facebook post from Moriah Adeghe ’21, he asserts that there is a contradiction between our pro-life views and this issue. There is no such contradiction –– we believe that all life has inestimable value and should not be subject to wrongful harm. There is no ideological inconsistency, and his attempts to accuse us of hypocrisy serve only to demonstrate his own lack of good faith.

Lastly, when Mr. Lorenzen suggests that we could “preserve a few last shreds of integrity” by admitting to his false premise, he reveals much about the purpose of this column. This was not a good-faith inquiry into the views of the Cornell Republicans or why we chose to remain silent (if it were, he may have decided to reach out to us before publication). This was an attempt to shame our organization. To claim that through silence we have somehow violated the principles of our organization, when the truth is that we have sought to do the very opposite. We have chosen to listen to our peers and reflect on these difficult issues, knowing that there will be a time in the future for impassioned debate.

Weston Barker ’21, President

Matthew Samilow ’22, Executive Vice President

Elise Viz ’22, Vice President of External Operations

Avery Bower ’23, Vice President of Internal Operations

Austin Cochran ’21, Treasurer

Brendan Dodd ’21, Secretary