Is political correctness a problem at the University of Maryland?

By Savannah Williams
For Unwind magazine

With the second GOP debate behind us and Donald Trump still ranking first in the conservative polls, according to a September CNN report, one topic floats to the surface of the 2016 campaign: political correctness. Many attribute Trump’s success to his devil-may-care attitude. Even Ben Carson has benefited in the polls after a recent controversy surrounding his view of potential Muslim presidents. What does this say about the stance of the average voter toward speech?

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“When your political correctness causes you to tiptoe around issues … then that’s a problem,” said Richard Stevens Jr., a senior sociology major.

While asserting that there are definitely “right ways to say things and wrong ways to say things,” Stevens also said it’s important that people “don’t sacrifice truth or honesty – or clarity – for the sake of political correctness.”

Many students at the University of Maryland share Stevens’ view. Ryan Eckenrod, a junior computer science major involved with College Republicans, takes the sentiment even further.

People “can belittle the conversation, and belittle the issue, by saying [statements are] ‘offensive’ and ‘not politically correct,’” he said.

His friend Alex Gilbert, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, also of Campus Republicans, strongly agrees.

“I mean college is supposed to be a place where you’re exposed to all sorts of different viewpoints,” Gilbert said.

Nafee Ahmed, a freshman economics major involved with UMD College Democrats, feels the same way.

“For society to understand an issue, it has to understand it from all possible sides,” Ahmed said. In his view, “by being politically correct [and deciding] ‘I’m not going to listen to certain points of view,’ or ‘I’m not going to listen to certain things because they’re offensive,’ you’ve stopped a major piece of communication in helping society advance.”

Why, then, is such an emphasis still placed on filtering public speech to prevent offending others? Stevens said this is because “as soon as someone says something, you have a bajillion different media outlets and opinionated people out there” to capitalize on controversy and jump to conclusions.

“I’d say a significant number of people are already sort of opposed to it,” mused Ahmed, “but I think the problem is, a lot of the people who are opposed to political correctness aren’t always the most eloquent, in putting why they’re opposed to political correctness.”

While most wouldn’t call Trump eloquent, perhaps he’s stumbled upon a bipartisan gold – it seems that the trend in candid speech grows every day.

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