Walfish: Civil discourse lacking in CAPA talks


Josh Walfish, Columnist

It’s weird how one small detail can change your impression of someone.

You can adore someone for what they’ve accomplished in their respective field, but the moment they do something you disagree with, your admiration turns to hatred.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Kain Colter. 

The quarterback dazzled us for four years with his athleticism on the football field and led the Wildcats to their first bowl victory in 64 years. Yet as soon as he became the face of the College Athletes Players Association, he was reviled for being ungrateful to a university that gave him so much.

Now in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress, Colter met with DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association. Smith was a guest Friday morning on the popular radio show “Mike & Mike,” and discussed some of the harsh words NU football players have received from alumni of this proud university since the National Labor Relations Board released its decision.

The same people who no doubt were cheering for No. 2 on Jan. 1, 2013, are now threatening him and telling him he won’t be able to find a job after his NFL career is over. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a quick change of heart to me.

Contrary to what our politicians want us to believe, we cannot go through life hating everyone who disagrees with us. We must be able to understand both sides of an issue even if we don’t agree with it.

I know it’s easier to just write off people who don’t agree. It’s easier to feel good when you’re surrounded by yes-men who will validate everything you believe. But your position only gets stronger when you are forced to defend it and articulate why you believe your opinion is correct.

What these alumni don’t understand is they are only hurting NU’s case by making these comments. They are trying to bully these college students into voting against unionization on April 25, and that actually makes their argument weaker. 

When you resort to intimidation tactics, it sends a message that you don’t have confidence in your own beliefs. This fake bravado is designed to hide the uncertainty in your opinions and only makes you look weaker.

Instead of taking the time to learn about what these players are really asking for, they use fear of change as the reason to try to coerce players to bend to their will.

This is a classic example of why hatred is the wrong approach to a disagreement. We all have the ability to jump to ill-informed conclusions, but having a civil discussion allows us to learn about the other side.

Some of the best conversations I’ve had in my life were with people who challenged my beliefs and forced me to defend them. They aren’t hostile encounters and very rarely does anybody raise their voice. I’ve walked out of those meetings feeling better about myself than before because I feel like I’m making an informed choice.

So let’s go back to the observation I made at the beginning of this column: Has your opinion of someone changed with one tiny piece of information about their beliefs? Have you talked with them about their new belief or just unilaterally made a judgment about them?

My guess is you have changed your opinion of that person without giving them a chance to explain themselves. My guess is you are like most people who are so nearsighted they are convinced they can’t be wrong. You believe your friend now has some bad quality that repels you.

Civility is becoming a buzzword in today’s society. Everyone wants it, but nobody wants to work for it. The lack of civility we show in disagreements is only hurting the community and dividing us along artificial terms.

 Josh Walfish is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].