Growing up amid the Indiana cornfields, half of my childhood was spent at home, and the other half was spent at church (for school and for Sunday service). My parents trained me in the light of Christianity, and when it came time to leave home and find my place in the world, I intended to carry on that legacy to the fullest. I hoped to set a proper example for my siblings. I wanted to show them what it means to imitate Christ in the world outside our little hometown.
When I first stepped foot as a student onto Indiana Wesleyan University’s Campus in the fall of 2016, I thought I was entering a community that was wholly dedicated to the pursuit of truth. Enthralled by the possibility of dialogue and debate, I wanted to be challenged to think more deeply, to consider what the greatest minds of the past had pondered, and to pursue my life’s calling as a seeker of truth.
Little did I know that the devil had been carefully baiting a trap.
My first semester happened during a time of political turmoil. It seemed that I could not express my views on anything of remotely practical importance, especially as a supporter of candidate Donald Trump, lest I be buried beneath a flurry of moral grandstanding from my peers and professors. In my naivety, this came as a shock to me.
Honors College professors were quick to lambaste conservative political views, especially after the election. They were infuriated by the outcome, and they sought to prevent my peers and I from supporting the kinds of popular ideas promoted by the rise of the President-elect. I thought about saying nothing, but I decided against it, as that would be to betray my upbringing—more than that, it would be to betray my God-given conscience. I became a vocal proponent of conservative ideas, much to the dismay of my Honors professors.
During my third semester, the day before Halloween of 2017. I wrote a response on Facebook to a poster I stumbled upon in my dormitory. That poster subtly implied that white people should not wear certain Halloween costumes on the basis of their supposed privilege. As I believe that cultural appropriation is not evil, and that the precise point of Halloween is to wear a costume– that is, to be something that you are not, for a night– I joked that I would dress up the next day as an incarcerated Native American Muslim chieftain, complete with headdress and hijab.
Consequently, I was mass-reported by students and professors to the Campus Equity Response Team. I was fired from my position as an Academic Senator in the Student Government Association, and I was punished with a 60-day “citizenship probation” period wherein I was restricted from representing the University to any degree. Two professors from my major departments sent emails to the student body, denouncing what I had written as “venomous,” “inflammatory,” and “offensive.” More than that, I was forced to meet with the entire Honors College faculty, who informed me that I needed to undergo a three-step repentance process in order to remain a part of the Honors College. Despite that I obeyed the injunction, they removed me from the Honors College in August of 2018.
I do not regret what I wrote. It was all in mischievous fun, and though it was an “edgy” joke in the eyes of some, it contained important truths which ought not be forgotten. More than that, it sparked conversation,and the actions of the students and professors who reported me, the HonorsCollege, and the Campus Equity Response Team have fanned that spark into aflame. It revealed something about modern academia that few professors are willing to publicly admit—namely, that social justice has replaced the pursuit of truth.
In the meantime, despite this setback, I will continue to fight for what is true, good, and beautiful, God willing.
This battle was only a training exercise.