From my perspective, the glass is half full

As an opinion columnist, I celebrate the right of freedom of the press. I am free to express my opinion as long as it is not libelous or defamatory.

We are fortunate in America-only slightly more than one-third of all nations have freedom of the press. This represents one-fifth of the world’s population. The rest of the world enjoys only partial press freedom or none at all. In these countries, noncompliance with restrictions placed on press freedom results in a long list of possible punishments, including harassment, torture, robbery, abduction, imprisonment and death.

We should be grateful that we can print our thoughts and ideas without fear of government-imposed castigation. The opinion section of any newspaper provides an excellent forum for expression and debate of current issues. The Chronicle is no exception. Not only are its columnists free to explore any topic for discussion, but students, faculty and the rest of the U community are welcome and encouraged to respond to what they read or simply to comment on the status quo from their perspective.

Having said that, there comes a point in time when certain issues become overanalyzed and further debate becomes wearisome and even annoying. I am personally tired of the gay straight debate that has infiltrated the U campus in recent weeks and months. The discourse between the LDS community and non-LDS groups has also grown old in a hurry.

Granted, it is better to duke it out on the opinion page than in the parking lot. But with that promulgation of contentious words, are we not widening the chasm that already divides us on campus and in the community? By continually focusing on what makes us different, by identifying others’ flaws and emphasizing our own rights, are we not overlooking the good in others and any common bond that may unite us?

I am not suggesting that we cannot disagree from time to time. This is America, a melting pot of ideas and cultures and values. There must be some room for civil debate. There must be room for expression. Otherwise, we would be no different from the majority of nations whose articulation of ideas and values is repressed by dictatorial leaders and stringent laws.

But there is too much good around us to focus solely on what separates us or to only stress what problems are plaguing our community, nation and world. I was taught growing up to “accentuate the positive” and to “look at the glass half full, not half empty.” Though these phrases seem clichd, I understand now why so much emphasis was placed upon them. There is less room for criticism and conflict when we approach our differences with an attitude of acceptance and tolerance, not hatred and malice.

So I will use my right of freedom of the press to do something different in this column. Do not put your papers down yet. Do not turn off your computer screen if you are reading this online. Allow me to digress for a moment and be-well, for lack of a better word-positive.

Due to lack of space, I will focus on only a few of the many recent developments we as a U community have cause to celebrate.

First, U academics. In a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report magazine, the U was ranked in six categories-more than any other Utah school. For the first time in the history of the rankings, two programs ranked in the top 10-the Utah Physician Assistant Program and the Community Health Program. The S. J. Quinney College of Law was listed in the top tier of the nation’s law schools. The undergraduate engineering program ranked 67th in the nation and U’s Service Learning program is considered one of the nation’s best.

The implementation of an enrollment cap this year is also a good move in an effort to reduce class size and thereby improve the quality of education we receive at the U.

Second, TRAX. The U is now literally linked with the rest of the community. Finished before its scheduled date of completion, TRAX provides commuter students with an affordable alternative (it is free for U students) to driving to school and braving the ongoing parking dilemma. This is vintage Salt Lake City in the 21st century!

Third, Crimson Nights. The Union Programming Council and other campus groups have come together to create a popular event patterned after other universities across the nation. Students gather on a Friday night once per month at the Union to enjoy a wide variety of activities at no cost, including bowling, billiards, dancing, comedy shows, music, basketball, volleyball and screenings of popular movies. Again, the operative word is “free.” If you have not yet attended Crimson Nights, your next opportunity is Nov. 14. Give it a try!

Fourth, U football. In spite of an upset loss against New Mexico last weekend, it is impossible to overlook the progress the U football team has made within the space of only one year. Everybody knows Urban Meyer. Everybody is talking about him and his Utes. There is a new level of excitement on the field and in the stands. Student attendance at the games has increased dramatically. Surely the team will have more victories to celebrate before the year’s end.

I could go on, but you get the point.

As concerned students and citizens of the U community, we should continue to exchange viewpoints, shaping our own ideas and embracing others’ comments with a more open mind. But we also ought to occasionally look at what makes this community and nation a great place to live and celebrate the commonalities that bring us together.

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