Commentary by MTSU Professor About Tolerance and the Ability to Heal in Conflict and/or to Debate

Oct 30, 2023 at 07:23 pm by WGNS News

Commentary: Tolerance, the ability for a system to heal itself; to take care of problems and conflicts – it's what some may refer to as “Fault tolerance.” With today's media commentary, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss...


Verbatim - “One of the hallmarks of any successful system or operation is what we call “fault tolerance,” the ability for a system to heal itself; to take care of problems and conflicts.

In the last few weeks we have seen a problem on college campuses where two sets of rights are coming into conflict. And how this conflict is resolved will say a lot about what we believe and why we believe it.

At issue is the conflict between First Amendment rights of free speech versus an individual's right not to feel verbally harassed or intimidated.

Where is the line between what I can say and think about any particular group versus how individuals feel about what I say?

Well, first, in order for the system to work, the line has to be drawn so as to give advantage to the free speech part of the equation.

If we actively suppress the use of certain words, phrases, regardless of the ideology behind them, then not only are we stifling those words, we are also eliminating any debate on the use of those words and the belief system behind them.

And it is in the debate we can discover just what the is truth. The words themselves matter very little. It is in the reason why we use this word or that word that is really critical here.

An even worse tragedy occurs when we refuse to debate the issue at all; when we close our minds to having our ideas and beliefs challenged. For it is in the challenge we can grow and mature.

And the debates are very real:  Just what was the role of Europeans in the development of the United States? What exactly constitutes harassment in the workplace? And of very immediate concern, How do we decide who has the right to live on what stretch of land?

But an even more basic question is whether or not it is right or wrong to impose a politically correct solution on the debate itself.

It has been said on numerous occasions there is nothing wrong with any kind of discussion. Certainly the application of what debate proposes may be right or wrong, but that is the difference between speech and action.

None of these questions has a final answer, and to impose one view on another, or worse, to not even allow the debate to occur, says there is some kind of final solution that can be imposed on us all. And final solutions have a way of being neither final, nor a solution. - I'm Larry Burriss.”

About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.




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