The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday October 7th

Opinion: Interactive theater does not silence conservatives

There is a tide of conversation about the degree to which UNC has become or is becoming too focused on “social justice.” And it has gained momentum since an incoming freshman posted a blog in the Chatham Journal Newspaper about his experience at UNC’s new student orientation.

He argues that UNC is inclusive but only to people with a certain set of political beliefs.

He characterizes a performance from Interactive Theatre Carolina as having an “overarching theme (of) avoiding offense,” but this doesn’t quite get at the core of the value that Interactive Theatre Carolina adds to the orientation experience.

These trainings, which, as he says, focus on diversity and inclusivity, are about compassion, not censorship.

There’s a reason why it might be unwise to invite a friend to eat at an expensive restaurant for lunch if you know they’re on a tight budget. It’s not because you want to avoid offending them.

It’s because you understand that having to turn down a lunch date or sit and eat nothing while friends order pricey meals isn’t fun. It feels lonely to be restricted to homemade sandwiches while friends go out to Spanky’s for lunch.

No one is telling incoming students that it’s not okay to invite low-income friends to expensive meals. The performance simply shows that doing so will likely cause that friend to feel isolated. Given those options — eating at Lenoir or making a friend feel lonely — the compassionate choice is clear.

One of the wonderful things about the interactive theater performance is that none of the characters are villains. They are human. The woman who was made uncomfortable by an aggressive man can also make homophobic comments to a gay man. That gay man can isolate his straight male friend by insisting on expensive restaurants. And so on. None are all victim or all villain, and in most cases they don’t intend to harm their classmates but do so unknowingly.

The lesson of the interactive theater performance is much deeper than the thin version this student describes.

It is compassion. It is that we are all capable of making mistakes and harming other members of the UNC community.

The aspects of orientation that he objects to are not about telling incoming students a list of things they are and aren’t allowed to say but rather showing that all UNC students matter, and if given the choice between carelessness and kindness, we should choose kindness. That is a UNC value.



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