Last Wednesday, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Senate hosted an open forum that was well-attended by those interested in discussing the topic at hand: tobacco usage on campus.

It was quite the heated affair and although great points were brought up in favor of both sides of the issue, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the manner in which the very vocal speakers voiced their opinions.

Some presented well-balanced arguments, taking into account both the positive and negative effects of a potential ban. Others however, from both sides of the issue, took to thinly-veiled accusations, pointing fingers and assigning the blame to anyone else.

I am not sure where I stand on the tobacco issue; I am certain, though, of where I stand on the issue of limited perspective. I am certain it makes one useless to society.

What do I mean by that statement? Take into consideration these few people who are unable to see the issue as a large picture, but rather only their personal stake in it. They use the same language: me, you, them, us. Anyone who supports them can be considered equals, but the “other” is instantly regarded as inferior. They draw lines in the sand, quick to defend their territory and accuse the other of encroachment.

But here’s the reality, folks: it’s all our territory. In the context of the tobacco discussion, it’s all our university. And we’re all students here—we. So, whatever decision we come to, it needs to take all perspectives into account.

Anyone, then, who is unwilling (or simply unable) to understand, at least in part, both sides of the issue, to weigh the pros and cons in both hands, spend some time in deep thought, before taking a stance, is of no help in the decision making process.

While a person may bring up a good point, using an accusatory tone instantly negates any credibility; a one-sided perspective cannot be considered viable.

Jessica Pettitt, the keynote speaker at last weekend’s Pacific University Leadership Conference, remarked “it’s easier to judge everyone else than to figure out what this is,” indicating herself. And she’s right. It’s much easier to point out the faults, the prejudices of “the other” than to find those within ourselves.

But when having discussions or debates, or arguments even, this one-sided, close-minded stance is counter-intuitive. “Being open to listening allows learning,” Pettitt shares; perhaps we could all learn to listen a little more, learn to judge a little less, and finally make some forward progress.

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