A Call for Civility

The gratitude board demonstrates something we love about Hotchkiss: a community that openly expresses mutual love and respect for one another. It warms our hearts to walk by the board and see the names of so many students and faculty  recognized for their positive contributions to all of our lives. 

Unfortunately, it has also been commandeered by a few individuals making snarky political remarks, defacing others’ cards, and misusing the board as a means to deride, rather than uplift, our community.

We cannot know who the culprits are or how many of them exist. But, as a whole, our community should be better than this. During Taft week, we students complained of a new psych card system that stymied our expression because of a lack of trust between faculty and students. But what have we done to prove that we are trustworthy? Turn a wholesome board into a prop for petty political grievances?

After a number of conservative students expressed gratitude for Donald Trump, some students took it upon themselves to deface those cards by anonymously writing “hell no!” or covering those cards up with Barack Obama cards. Likewise, when some left-leaning students put up cards for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, other students took advantage of their anonymity to write “crazy” on these cards or to attach other pejorative “socialist” monikers to cards nearby. In other areas, cards displaying conservative commentators or politicians cover up liberal ones, and vice versa, until there are three or four cards stacked on top of each other. If this is the state of political discourse at our school, we should reflect on what our values really are.

For a community that professes to value diversity, we struggle to respect people who are different. Individuals from different backgrounds will have different perspectives, experiences, and, yes, political views. To deface or deride other students’ political beliefs while hiding behind a shield of anonymity is to reject diversity of thought and undermine our respect for one another.

Of course, a majority of the board does reflect its intended positive message. The board was intended to promote community, not create controversy. We need to remember that how we act anonymously reflects the values of all students and of the school, and we should act according to those values if we want the trust of the administration. If we can’t reconcile anonymity with respect, we have no grounds to complain about limits placed on our speech. So, if you want to add to the gratitude board, remember that your actions speak for all of us.