June 13, 2016

by Will Arvelo, President

Trump’s visit to Great Bay Community College has me worried. Not because of his views. After all, I don’t agree with most of them. I am Latino and I love my Mexican brothers and sisters … legal or not.

What has me worried is more sinister than anything any candidate could throw at us. As president of Great Bay Community College, a public college, I get excited about the election process. Who are the candidates going to be? What ideas will they run on? Will we have an opportunity to bring them to the college?

In February we were fortunate to have Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, in that order, visit the college. We served as a venue for about 5,000 people to see and hear the candidates up close. Yes, I took a lot of criticism for allowing Trump to use the college for a rally. There were nasty emails and phone calls then as well as this time around.

This is what has me worried. Smart people that want to exclude a man running for our highest office from presenting his ideas. Are we or are we not a democracy? Are we not smart enough to be able to choose the best man or woman with the best ideas to push our country forward? Yes, Mr. Trump’s ideas may be offensive to many of us, but should we shut him down because of his views? What happened to freedom of speech? If we go down that path, where does it stop? Is it not better to have ideas, good or bad, discussed in the open rather than have them go underground where they fester?

I stand for tolerance. It is a core value that the founders of this nation also believed in. I also stand for the notion that in a marketplace of ideas, the best ones will always win out to push society forward. Democracy is a messy business, but it is the best choice to represent and protect our diverse viewpoints.

As regards Great Bay Community College, we will stand for tolerance and openness. Intolerance should not have a place in a learning environment. By our very nature, we should be encouraging conversation about the issues that confront us as a society in an open fashion where all ideas are welcome despite how unseemly they may appear to our core values. Personally, I may not agree with most of Mr. Trump’s ideas, but I will defend his right to speak to N.H. citizens. He is a candidate for president and he deserves the right, like all the other candidates, to present his platform to NH voters.

Instead of not encouraging our students to be engaged, we should be welcoming this opportunity to become engaged in conversation as a community and to encourage analysis and critical thinking. That is not to say that we should not be emotional about our feelings on these pressing issues, but we should be doing so in an environment that welcomes and protects discourse and disagreement. These are cherished tenets of our democratic society. When we diminish discourse and tamp down dialogue or participation in our democratic way of life, we become less as a nation.

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