Letter to Emory

The Phi Gamma Society is a reincarnation of the historic Phi Gamma secret literary society that was founded on the Oxford campus in 1837. Senior Director of Debate Ed Lee has confirmed that the secret society consists of four seniors and two juniors. 
Its purpose is: To urge the Emory community to honor its heritage as a historic University; to create open and frank dialogue within both the Society and the community as a whole; to better its members intellectually; to promote the cause of science and truth by the cultivation of oratory and the art of debate; to honor members of the community who have helped the pre-stated purposes.

A happy new year to you, Emory. 2016 has snuck up on us and while it provides endless opportunities it also is the perfect window into the endless abyss of issues that have cropped up recently. Racism, the Black Lives Matter movement, the rise of the Islamic State, the Syrian refugee crisis, Presidential politics, gun control, need we go on?

Do these issues make you uncomfortable, Emory?

Do they?

They should. College, and in particular our time at college, should absolutely make you uncomfortable. Whether that manifests itself in righteous anger, scared confusion, marginal apathy, or active actions, you should feel the discomfort. Cherish it. Let it flow through your veins. It is the first step to change.

There can be no doubt that tumultuous actions have taken place, and are in store for the upcoming year. But through our time here at Emory, we have noticed something. How far is the freedom of expression something of value to the students here? How do you define the freedom of expression? Is it merely democracy? Is it being able to say whatever you want? Or is it the collective agreement of those around you that you are allowed to have their own opinion, even if they don’t agree with you? When did the freedom of expression become about what you say as opposed to the respect for you to have your opinion?

You may not see it, Emory, but we do. It is a crisis. We argue not for what you should think, but how you should think. Think to our Alma Mater’s motto: “Cor prudentis possidebit scientiam” (“The wise heart seeks knowledge”). Think to yourself, Emory: have you embodied this? Have you sought knowledge? Or has it been blocked by your desire for Facebook likes, attention, the blissful anonymity of Yik-Yak, or agreeing with the right people?

What do you define as knowledge? How do you know if what you know is truly knowledge? In the midst of everything, Emory, have you thought to yourself that perhaps you don’t know the right things? You may know how to express your opinion, but do you know how to do so in a way that relates to those who don’t think like you? You may know how to say all the wrong things, but do you truly know what effect that has on people around you?

When was the last time you tried to understand? When was the last time your wise heart looked for knowledge? When was the last time you truly embodied the heart of a liberal arts college and taught yourself a different way to think? Through everything that has happened at our noble home, this is what we see as the primary issue. Our problems will not be solved with a blanket declaration of what to think, but rather with an individualized process of how to think. No matter what the issue, it cannot be solved with your anger but rather with the collective consensus.

Easier said than done, correct? We are not arguing that the process is easy. It most certainly is not. In fact, it’s far too easy to not think and turn your brain off. Tap into your discomfort, Emory, it is the key to your success.

Until then, we will be watching…

Respectfully yours,