The annual St. Olaf homecoming pageant King of the Hill has traditionally been a well-loved event showcasing the best talents, styles and one-liners of St. Olaf’s men. However, it was slightly modified this year when its name was changed to “Champion of the Hill.” In doing so, the hope was that Oles of all gender identities could show off what they are capable of. The contestants showcased their talents last Saturday and I truly enjoyed the diversity that the rebranded event encouraged. One could truly feel a greater sense of togetherness in the Pause that night.
Even though I have personally developed a disdain for political correctness (PC) over the years, in the case of Champion of the Hill I think political correctness managed to bring our community together. Maybe it was the fact that the organizers of the event were not motivated by an activist agenda that made the name change go over so smoothly. Over the years, politically correct Oles have made their mark on campus through advocating for various changes. From establishing a system of safe spaces and trigger warnings in classes, to diminishing the use of the word “retarded” to describe mentally disabled people, St. Olaf has had their fair share of political correctness police.
I have no doubt that the PC police have good intentions. Nor do I harbor suspicions about the sincerity of their goals. Nevertheless, some cases over the years have shown how college PC police have advocated the liberal agenda by using censorship measures that can seem quasi-totalitarian. In December of 2014, Smith College president Kathleen McCartney apologized after receiving backlash for saying that “all lives matter.” In another case, Yale University professor Erika Christakis sent a campus-wide email in October of 2015 challenging students to stand up for their right to decide what Halloween costumes to wear, even if those costumes were offensive. The protests that followed led to Christakis’s resignation the following December.
At this point, one has to ask whether political correctness is just another way of declaring that your own personal beliefs are the ultimate truth and invalidating the personal beliefs of everyone who disagrees with you. There’s not only an emotional, but a selfish quality to this mentality. It is hard to dismiss the arrogant nature of the PC movement on college campuses, where students feel that they have sufficient wisdom to pass judgement on what is right and what is wrong. However, as Bill Maher puts it, “wisdom isn’t something that you can just Google.”
No matter how much one believes that they are standing on the right side of the argument, forcefully convincing others that they are saying the wrong things or are wearing the wrong clothes isn’t wisdom – or even freedom of speech for that matter. It is oppression, pure and simple.
That being said, I am pleased that PC police were not overtly present in the decision to change the name of King of the Hill. The fact that Oles from all sides of the issue warmly received the name change demonstrated that dramatic measures aren’t always necessary to achieve a monumental change in your environment. All it takes is a level head and the ability to listen to one another rather than vehemently disagreeing with others. If this attitude could be adopted for all politically charged issues, such as trigger warnings or the use of the word “retarded,” the change that PC police seek would be easily attained.
Samuel Pattinasarane ’17 (email@example.com) is from Jakarta, Indonesia. He majors in political science and Asian studies.