I don’t think that there was anything I could have done to prepare myself for University of Richmond orientation.
Hearing the campus police chief, a law enforcement officer, talk about how he knows that we will all drink (underage) but that the campus police were there to keep us safe really made me feel like I was in the “cool” parents’ house in some disturbing new MTV show. The university doesn’t condone the illegal consumption of alcohol, but you need to watch this AlcoholEdu video to learn how to break the law responsibly and safely.
Then, I got to go to the famous “Toto” seminar. There, I learned that moral or academic qualms with homosexuality and stances against affirmative action were immoral, intolerant and opposed to progress. These are all much larger topics for another time, but the point is that very divisive and controversial issues were being taught as indubitable doctrine by mandatory seminars.
You might ask, “If you disagree with all of these events, then why do you keep going?” Well, the university decided that I had to attend every event in order to be academically eligible. There just seems to be something very dishonest about the whole thing: If you want a degree then you must be indoctrinated into our beliefs.
If the university wants to approach issues of homosexuality, affirmative action and contraception in mandatory lectures (which I applaud), then it should at least give the topics the scope and representation they deserve. This seems only fair. I know the university does not claim to have a controversial agenda, but it is very disheartening to receive a lecture where opposing arguments are dismissed without any exploration.
In the name of open-mindedness and academic fairness, let the other side of the gay marriage question present itself at an orientation event. In addition to the “Love ‘n Liquor” seminar (where we are given advice on how to have “safe” sex), host an organization that advocates for the recognition of traditional values. Instead of handing everyone free condoms, occasionally advocate for the dignity of sex and the benefits of waiting.
I understand that total fairness is not always possible and that not everyone’s views will always be represented, but an attempt would go a long way. I am not alone — many students are very concerned that the university is less open to dialogue on very charged issues, and the orientation seminar schedule is a great example of that.
Most people ask, “Well, what were you expecting?” Or, “Why didn’t you go to some traditional school?” They’re absolutely right, the university is not what I thought it would be. I guess I just figured that “academic tolerance” would apply to what I thought as well. I was wrong.