Student Voice: James McCarthy

By James McCarthy

Fourth-year Communications Major

The decision to cancel the debate between Cliff Kincaid and Jeff Cohen set for Wednesday, March 30, was abrupt, and I have come across opinions from both sides as to whether it should have happened or not. I personally believe the debate should have occurred, and want to address some of the opposing views I came across.

1. Our campus community shouldn’t be showcasing “hate speech.” 

I do agree with this statement, however, in the case of Wednesday’s cancelled debate, this would not have been the case. A debate and a speech fall under different categories for a reason. Instead of listening to Cliff Kincaid banter on about anti-gay, Obama is a communist-type of ideas and us being unable to speak up and question whether his “facts” are accurate or not, we will have a well-trained Jeff Cohen providing backlash to his “hate speech,” and poke holes in his ideologies with a means of discrediting them. A debate is not an endorsement, in fact, it can very well become the opposite, which would be an opportunity to expose his radical beliefs as having little to no backing.

2. We shouldn’t have an extremist come to represent the Republican Party as a whole.

I can understand that extreme beliefs aren’t representative of the Republican Party as a whole, and I see why this would get people, particularly Republicans, upset. However, the fact remains that Trump is running for president, and could possibly represent not only Republicans, but also the nation as a whole. Trump is known for his extreme, radical, and incendiary speech given in his rallies. This is the reason why I believe that having Kincaid come as a representative would have been justifiable, because he and Trump, although not carbon copies in their beliefs, do incite similar hatred towards minority groups in speeches they give.

3.  Who is Jeff Cohen?

Although a quick Google search might land you with Chunk from The Goonies, I can assure you that you’ve got the wrong Jeff Cohen. Cohen is a media critic and lecturer, and is also responsible for starting the group, FAIR in 1986, which stands for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. Cohen would have been more than equipped to take on Kincaid in a one on one debate. I think Cohen was a great choice to debate against Kincaid and the debate would’ve been very thought provoking.

SUNY New Paltz is a loving and open-minded community. However, a look to the comment section of the Times Herald-Record article, “After Cancelling Debate, SUNY New Paltz Looks to Reschedule Event,” shows that Kincaid has labeled it to be a “…hostile and hate-filled climate on a university campus.” Kincaid bases this off the vagueness of President Christian’s comments of “tone and tenor,” and “hateful speech,” to him about why the debate was cancelled. I understand the brevity that Kincaid is referring to in regards of the cancellation. On Wednesday morning, Mike Patterson sent out an email addressing the campus community but left out the student body. The email stated no reason other than that, “…At this time, we believe the focus of the program, which was a timely debate regarding media and politics, has been lost, and the intended purpose for our community would likely not be achieved.”

It is clear that a mistake has been made. The cancellation of Wednesday’s debate has put SUNY New Paltz in a bad light. We are being labeled as oppressors of free speech, even the creators of a hate-filled and hostile environment. But we have also been given the opportunity to move forward. The motive behind rescheduling the debate should be clear: that the SUNY New Paltz community is none of these things.

The views expressed in op-eds are solely those of the student who wrote and submitted it. They do not necessarily reflect those of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.