In Response to the High Tea

Chau Nguyen, Class of 2019

On the evening of November 1, students gathered in McGregory Hall for tea, snacks and a discussion on the lecture by Alan Dershowitz scheduled for Monday, November 5. I cannot speak for every student that attended the discussion, but I personally walked out feeling enraged and silenced.

At the beginning of the high tea, a question was raised: under the assumption that his sexual assault allegations are true, should this stop Colgate from inviting Alan Dershowitz to talk about civil liberties as a successful lawyer and the youngest professor of law at 28 years old? The answer seems clear to me.We should not welcome anybody into our space and our community who is a possible perpetrator. Other students reiterated this sentiment on multiple occasions throughout the high tea. It is not the discussion of civil liberties that students reject, but it is the man who will be standing on our stage doing so.

I am not going to discuss Alan Dershowitz or debate whether or not he committed the crime. What I want to acknowledge, however, is the harmful rhetoric that was expressed during the high tea, and what it means for our community at Colgate. The meaning of consent and issues of human trafficking still seem lost to the moderator of the high tea, Professor of Political Science Stanley Brubaker. Every interruption that he made while a student was talking was an exercise of his privilege. It relays to me that my voice is not central to the discussion at hand, or the voices of those he chose to interrupt. Rather than fulfilling his role as a moderator who encourages conversation among students, Brubaker utilized his privilege to take up the space meant for the students with exasperated misconceptions of sexual assault. As a community, Colgate needs to recognize the culture of sexual assault and power relations which divides this campus.

Our lived experiences are not yours to call “interesting.” Students face violence on this campus, and you could not “coddle” them, even if you tried. Preventing the perpetuation of violence against marginalized bodies on this campus that we call home is not coddling, it is community.

To those who stand in opposition to the things I have expressed: I am open to having a conversation on why you do so. I have no issue attaching my name to my opinions, so please feel free to express yours. But I ask you to be aware of the ways in which you choose to exercise your right to free speech. Words carry the capacity for truths and love, but they are also a weapon with the ability to do harm.

To the Colgate community, I ask you to think about the students who are affected by violence on this campus. I ask you to think about why sexual assault, as well as issues of racism, classism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia still persist. How do we all position ourselves in a world where these issues are a reality, and what do we choose to do about them?

Contact Chau Nguyen at [email protected]