OPINION | Criticism can start dialogue

Butler University has received some criticisms from The Butler Collegian over the past few years.
It is not the place of this column to make any sort of argument about the purpose of student press or newspapers in general.
But it is relevant to talk about criticism.
Critiques can weaken an institution or cause scandal.
However, critiques can also be used to raise awareness and to trigger positive growth.
For example, imagine a report comes out that a politician’s aide said something incredibly offensive or took bribe money.
That report might even come from a highly critical and “shady” publication.
The politician has a few choices.
The best option would be to publicly investigate the accusation and to act accordingly.
Instead, sometimes institutions  “close ranks” and argue the sources from outside have no evidence and no right to make accusations.
Again, this is an entirely hypothetical situation.
The point here is that criticism can be perceived as an outside attack meant to destabilize everything positive about the university.
It can also be the start of a conversation, which might then become the basis for change.
It almost goes without saying that there should be responsibility on both sides of the argument.
But even if a report comes from a disreputable source, part of being a “critical thinker” is to engage instead of shutting down.
If we as members of a liberal arts institution want to keep that label, we need to move away from simplistic thinking.
It is easy to believe that people either love or hate institutions.
It is also easy to believe how they answer that question means they can or cannot offer useful insight.
The difficult truth is sometimes people who have little to do with a situation are able to offer insight.
Other times, this clearly is not the case.
But this is the role of the education we have all been receiving.
Criticism should be examined in the context of the people giving it, in the context of the university and even society outside of the bubble.
The university has done an effective job of addressing students in dialogue and keeping them informed of events and plans for the future.
However, part of our role as community members and citizens is not just to listen but to engage.
Most of us probably have the ability to obtain information about controversial situations abroad.
Some think that by viewing photographs, stories and news reports in the media they become experts.
I would hesitate to say that anyone here really understands all of the controversial events going on elsewhere in the world, myself definitely included.
Information is not automatically the solution.
We also need, as a student body, faculty, staff, community and nation, to engage in dialogue and act.
Criticism, even from the most frustrating sources, can be the first steps in dialogue.