I chose to attend the presentation by Mrs. Huerta because I genuinely wanted to hear her speak. Unfortunately, it was clear after about 20 minutes into her presentation that I was very much in the minority; the behavior of the majority was so appalling, I was embarrassed to introduce myself as a Ferris student to her later in the evening.
I will concede that her speech was at times difficult to follow; she spoke without notes, and covered many topics. She talked about hate, and race, intolerance, and exploitation, all of which are difficult subjects and bring about strong opinions. None of this excuses the fact that about 25 minutes into her speech, the conversations going on in the audience were so loud, it was difficult to hear her at all. This only got worse, to the point that I just wanted her to stop and wait for people to shut up, like a kindergarten teacher would do with 5 year olds. Students had their laptops open, chatting on Facebook or playing games; they were texting, even talking on their phones. When she finished and called for questions, about 90% of the students left, many of them carrying on conversations in the aisles while people were trying to ask their question.
I am well aware that Ferris is a relatively conservative campus, and that Mrs. Huerta’s “liberal” views were probably quite challenging for many students to listen to. However, part of being in college, and being an adult, is learning how to listen to views and information that may be contradictory to one’s own, and being capable of doing so respectfully. This is simply being polite. The fact that anyone who disagreed with her had the opportunity to ask questions at the end, and they all got up and left, tells me their behavior was not just disagreement with her views, it was just plain rudeness.
I do not lay all the accountability on just the students. I understand the reason behind offering students incentives to attend cultural events, but I think professors who do so without at least educating the students on what to expect, and offering them other choices are not doing either the students, or the speakers, any favors. Students who have been essentially bribed into going to such an event, rather than attending out of genuine interest, are not going to hold themselves to an acceptable standard of behavior when they know that nearly everyone else is there for ‘extra credit’ also. This applies equally to Ferris’s policy of rewarding RSO attendance at so-called 5-Star events. I would much rather have seen just a hundred people at Mrs. Huerta’s presentation who were there because they wanted to be, than have the large audience of that night full of uninterested, and unaccountably rude, students. I would like to think that lessons in civility would not be required on a college campus; short of that, however, I think it’s time for professors, and the college, to rethink the policy of awarding “attendance credits” for such events.