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Robicheau has Right to Hold Seminar

Robicheau Has Right to Hold Seminar

A recent article about an Independent Activities Period event ["IAP Seminar on Gay Conversion Prompts Angry Student Response,"Jan. 17] gave me the impression that some students objected to the offering of the non-credit seminar entitled "An Introduction to Change for the Homosexual and the Ex-Gay Movement." The seminar, presented by Peter N. Robicheau, addressed conversion methods from homosexuality to heterosexuality. In response to this seminar, some students distributed leaflets entitled "MIT Sponsors Hatred" that stated that this seminar "directly offends and harms many in the queer community here." I would like to address the students who produced this leaflet.

First, as stated in the article, the IAP guidelines specifically state that the inclusion of a non-credit seminar "does not imply MIT endorsement." These are the same guidelines that have allowed the gay community, as well as other minority groups on campus, to present their own seminars, even if MIT or the majority of the student body should happen to disagree with these students' views. This is what is called freedom of speech and expression. What I do not understand is why some groups believe that they have the right to express their beliefs and that another group does not. This is not to say that I agree with Robicheau's opinions, which I am very much opposed to. However, he has every right to hold a seminar on this or any subject he chooses as long as it is appropriately titled. This would be a whole different situation if this seminar were a required course or even an official MIT sponsored event. If you are offended by the views presented in this seminar, then do not attend the seminar.

This reaction is a part of a long standing problem with activist groups, whether they are opposed to racism, sexism, homophobia or other human rights concerns. The platform of most of these movements, as I understand them, is to gain equal treatment for all human beings. People should be judged on their individual actions and not their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or other genetic factors which they themselves have no control over. This is very different from the idea that these minority groups deserve special treatment. If you think you deserve the right to freely express your views on homosexuality and still be treated decently, then you should offer that same courtesy and right to other individuals, even those who disagree with your views.

There is, of course, a very fine line between what constitutes freedom of expression and what is infringement on someone else's well-being. It is not appropriate to vandalize posters, threaten the safety of students, or other hate crimes that have plagued this campus. However, the offering of a non-credit seminar that is appropriately titled as to its content is in my opinion clearly within the bounds of freedom of expression. If activist groups protest events that are not infringing upon their rights in addition to those that are legitimate claims of harassment, the majority of people will stop listening and just chalk up the legitimate claims as an overreaction to an innocent situation. Yes, there is a problem of discrimination on this campus against many groups, including the queer community. These hate crimes should not go unnoticed, but please refrain from crying wolf, or no one will take us seriously when there really is a problem.

Jennifer N. Mosier '96