Controversy reveals need to teach better communication
Something I feel I’ve learned well at Linfield is communicating and dealing with others. I thought the school taught that fairly well. Until, that is, two weeks ago.
A close friend of mine is sophomore theatre and communication arts major Chris Forrer, who writes the Review’s sports column. Two weeks ago, he published a column on the future of the women’s softball team (“Swing for the title, ladies, not the fences,” TLR, April 7).
After TLR posted the article in the paper and online, Chris immediately began to receive hateful emails pertaining to the supposed offensive nature of the article. One of the online commenters, calling him- or herself “A TRUE Wildcat fan,” even suggested that Chris stick to what he is good at, “like watching Harry Potter movies, playing chess or jacking off.”
Others called the writer and article ridiculous, suggested he quit his job and, as commenter Doug Strahm put it, described the piece as “ABSOLUTE UNINFORMED POPPY-COCK (or as you might say CRAP!!!!).”
This kind of hate and immature backlash is inexcusable. I fully admit that the article wasn’t without flaws. It referenced an issue that occurred in the locker rooms in 2008 and compared that to situations that are occurring today and how this might hold the team back.
I feel that was not written as tactfully as possible. Also, I can easily see the headline of the article being offensive and misleading as to the actual content of the piece.
However, if you actually read what the article says, there is no way that an intelligent person could misinterpret that the story was in support of the softball team and simply pointed out comparisons to things that happened in the past.
This, as I think should also be obvious, is a sport’s columnist’s job: to follow a team or teams, observe how they’re doing, compare that to season’s past and draw conclusions. Chris did this, nothing more and nothing less. He never insinuated that the team was actually, “swinging for the fences” and certainly never bad-mouthed or wished anything but the best for the women of the team. He even said, “I think the drive to win the title after coming so close last year will win out over any personal missions.” How is this anything but a vote of confidence?
The comments toward Forrer are indicative of a failure in our school. The liberal arts education of Linfield is meant to train us to work with everyone and communicate effectively in a globalized world. How, if this school can be called a success, can students come out of the program thinking it is OK to send hate mail and borderline threats to someone for stating an opinion? Which professors or administrators are seeing these students and not correcting them?
What I expect from my $40k education is personalized attention that extends beyond the classroom and shapes my whole person. I, thankfully, feel like I have received that. Thus I am rather sad to think that I am going to school with such poorly trained peers who have clearly shown a flaw that lies within the student body.
Administrators and professors of Linfield, I call upon you to ensure that students who are not receiving the kind of specialized attention that they need to grow as communicators begin to. If students like the ones who commented online are graduating from this college thinking their style of interpersonal communication is appropriate, then you have failed at your job.
I am thankful for those who have shaped me. As the mentors of the school, though, it is your task to ensure that I am correct.
Matthew Sunderland\Guest columnist
Matthew Sunderlan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.