Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of the National Review, argued against checking privilege in an event Wednesday night at Duke.
“When the (privilege) concept is used to dismiss views, based on demographic characteristics of the people who are expressing themselves, it is an affront to the values that should animate an academic community,” he said.
The event — sponsored by Duke's American Enterprise Institute, the Duke Open Campus Coalition and other Duke student groups — brought students together from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University for a nonthreatening discussion on free speech.
Ponnuru encouraged open campus coalitions that allow politically active students from all political backgrounds to protect students’ diversity of thought and their right to express themselves.
“There’s this idea that this is not a matter of which team you are on and which political tribe you affiliate yourself with, but that there is a kind of principle at the end of the day,” he said.
Students should not be afraid of speaking up for fear of being judged, he said.
“If you are refusing to speak up for that reason, how different are you from somebody who is shrieking in terror because they see something chalked on a sidewalk which they disagree with," Ponnuru said.
"We all have to be willing to engage in debate and allow other people to disagree with us and survive it, and sort of grow up."
His comments sparked questions of safe spaces and trigger warnings from students in the audience.
“The world is not a safe space, and you need to prepare yourself for that,” Ponnuru said.
UNC students in the audience related Ponnuru’s statements to recent campus events.
“I was wondering what his views on Silent Sam would be and what he thought of the recent controversies with renaming Carolina Hall,” said Lily Schwartz, a UNC first-year.
“I kind of identify myself with the Democratic party a little bit more, but I really like that he didn’t really talk about his party, rather just his views and how they can cross party lines.”
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