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Staff Editorial: The Dangers of Stifling Conversation

Is there a better time or place to have a conversation about free speech? From confederate statues to censorship on college campuses, the First Amendment and controversy seem synonymous these days. Greenhill has had its fair share of bumps and bruises on the topic of late. In fact, the e-pages of this newspaper have been censored in recent weeks. Let’s chat about it.

On September 25, the “We are Greenhill” community conversation initiative was launched by Greenhill’s Equity and Inclusion Department with the intention of tackling tough questions about race and class in our community head on. It’s an admirable endeavor and we are thankful the administrators took on this challenge in the midst of broader discussions of race in Dallas and the world.

At the launch of the initiative, students posed tough and provocative questions. The meeting made us think– just the type of thing this school both touts and encourages.

The Evergreen wrote a story summarizing the events of the meeting, only to see the article removed by school administration the following day. We later learned that the article was removed for highlighting specific questions from the meeting that were not ready to be published online, where members outside of our community could view them.

To be clear, The Evergreen respects the right of the administration to want to keep some conversations within the walls of the Greenhill community. We understand these sensitivities and the privacy of a high school setting. We take that administrative concern seriously.

While we understand the reason the story was removed, the sensitive material published in the story is consistent with the spirit and fabric of Greenhill. Uncomfortable conversation is in the school’s DNA. This includes giving the mechanisms that promote community conversation, including but not limited to the newspaper, the right and freedom to discuss concerns that don’t always portray Greenhill in the best image. We are concerned that this censorship will seep beyond this newspaper, which is a far more damaging and concerning prospect.

Our community’s strength lies in our ability to communicate, which makes it all the more concerning to see worries of the school’s public image hinder our ability to share ideas openly and freely.

Greenhill students are told time and time again of the importance of civil discourse. But this censorship incident raises questions about how serious Greenhill is about facilitating this discourse. As a school that encourages discussion, we must allow these sensitive topics to come to light so we can address them as a community and better seek to understand one another.

Otherwise, there’s no room for improvement as a school and as a community.

A willingness to tackle these sensitive issues head-on, admitting that we as a school have imperfections that need addressing, can set Greenhill apart from other communities. While others shy away from sensitive issues, we can be different by embracing them. Until we can confront our flaws and feel comfortable doing so, we are only doing ourselves a disservice.

Originally published in the November 2017 print issue

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