As a few select individuals may be aware, the former Republican Senator Rick Santorum was invited by the Georgetown College Republicans to speak this week on the subject of his new book, the theme of which is the all-out ideological war we are heading toward with radical Islam. The event was not publicized, and the number of attendees was smaller than I would have expected for such a controversial appearance.

I wholeheartedly support the former senator’s right to speech, especially considering that he was invited to speak here by a university organization, but I was extremely disappointed with the behavior of the College Republicans throughout the evening. I would not dream of trying to interrupt Santorum’s speech, and I quietly and attentively listened in courteous silence for almost an hour as he argued his points. But when the floor was opened up for a question-and-answer period, I was dismayed to find that the only persons selected to stand behind the microphone were actual members of the College Republicans. These individuals were chosen expressly by the president of the organization, who called each person by name. The only non-member who was able to ask a question was called on by Santorum himself to pose the last question.

While this event was, as far as I know, open to the public, my opinion and my questions for this guest, and the questions and concerns of anyone not a member of the Georgetown College Republicans, were obviously not valued. I was never offered the opportunity to move the discussion forward. And from what I can tell, there was no intention on the part of the leadership of the College Republicans to allow the kind of argument and debate that our academic minds should be thriving on.

After the speech and question-and-answer session had concluded, several companions and I tried to voice our opposition to several of Santorum’s past remarks and stances, especially numerous well-publicized homophobic remarks. Department of Public Safety officers actually allowed us to make our presence known, so long as we did so respectfully and unobtrusively. However, much to my dismay, four separate individuals attempted to divert us away from Santorum, blatantly lying about his whereabouts, even after we had seen him leave. I’ll be outright in saying that the tone of our post-event protest was vastly different from that of our behavior during the event itself. I can understand a certain reluctance to point us in the senator’s direction, but the behavior of these individuals was dishonest and juvenile.

Yes, I have a problem with many of former Senator Santorum’s views, especially those concerning homosexuality. However, I gave nothing but respect to him and the College Republicans during their event. I waited until after the event, away from the room, while the former senator was leaving, to even begin protesting his appearance in any way. Yet I was still completely blocked out from any sort of discussion during the question-and-answer period, though I wanted nothing more than to ask straightforward and respectful questions concerning the topic of his speech.

What irks me the most is that despite our having respectfully listened to Santorum share his views during the event, people tried so vehemently to stop us from voicing opposition, even after the event had concluded, to a man whose views I would comfortably say are opposed by a vast majority of Georgetown. And the suppression of discussion within the event on a college campus is shameful. Above all, considering the events that have taken place on our campus during the past year with regard to our LGBTQ community, I am appalled to see that once again, my voice has been silenced.

Perhaps this would not have angered me so had this not been the first time I have witnessed the silencing of a voice from the opposition at an event hosted by the College Republicans. I’m certain that many of you recall the visit of Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) this semester. During that event’s question-and-answer period, a close friend of mine asked Mr. Paul a question concerning certain racist comments that had appeared in a newsletter under his name. While pressing Mr. Paul for a satisfactory response, he was booed away from the microphone by many members of the crowd, consisting not only of the congressman’s very zealous supporters, but also members of the College Republicans. The question brought up was valid, informed and wholly appropriate to the discussion at hand. But once again, petty politics had overturned the attempt at open debate and, embarrassingly, a voice seeking justice had been silenced.

Please do not misunderstand me. My frustration is not in any way directed toward Republicans on campus. From my experience, Georgetown is full of wonderful people willing to engage in debate about every topic imaginable. They come from all walks of life, from every country imaginable; they are of varied political persuasions and they have shaped my world view immensely in the short amount of time I have spent here. I am forever grateful for the many discussions, debates and arguments I have had already – they are truly the most thought-provoking moments I could have asked for. But the unending attempts to keep opposition from speaking out, the failure and unwillingness to engage our campus in scholarly debate and the base tactics at play during events with political guests are entirely inexcusable. They are a stain on the academic life of our campus and an embarrassment to our university. This behavior is unacceptable, and I refuse to be silenced any longer.

Christopher Dicks is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.

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