Opinion submission: After the Wallys, open your heart and mind

By Giselle Marston | April 21, 2018 1:54pm

Giselle Marston. Photo Courtesy of Giselle Marston.

I would first like to thank Olivia Sanchez for telling her story in her opinion publication. It was very brave, and it encourages people to let their voices be heard when they feel unsafe or injustice happens. I want to acknowledge that Goutham's Sundaram's "inappropriate" words "cannot be defended," as he has stated in his apology. Sanchez's voice is an important one and there are many other voices to consider, such as my own. 

I have known Goutham Sundaram since freshman orientation. We have had many classes together, as Computer Science (CS) and Math majors. This has given me the opportunity and privilege of getting to know such an amazing young man, and I am proud to say he is one of my best friends. Since the beginning of college, I have had doubts of whether I wanted to continue with CS or work in the tech industry, a male dominated field. Was I even good enough? I'm not this stereotypical coder, a quiet man obsessed with computers. Whenever I voiced these self-deprecating things, Goutham was one to challenge the doubts. He supported me in all my endeavors and believed in me when I had a hard time believing in myself. 

Beyond CS, Goutham has made me realize how important it is to talk about social and political issues our country is facing; how racism and sexism are affecting our country and that we can and must break through stereotypes. He inspired me to take the African American History course at UP to learn more about the history of it, and why it is so important. He takes the time to read my papers and engages with me on topics covered in the class. He also convinced a couple friends and me to attend the 2017 Women's March with him. 

So, it is very difficult to read the word misogynistic to describe anything he has said. I know Goutham, and I know that Sanchez's depiction of him is not a true reflection of who he is. While I want to honor Sanchez' account, I also want to remind readers that it is an opinion piece and only one voice of the many people who were at the Wallys Awards. Furthermore, the public does not have a video or transcript of what was said by him. I do not know what exactly was said either, as I was not present at the Wallys. Since Goutham's speech made Sanchez feel trapped, it’s not okay and should be looked into. However, I urge readers to analyze the information given. In my history class, we are taught to think critically and evaluate sources. It's dangerous to only use one opinion piece to form your own opinion. Although quotes are used, it is based off memory and Sanchez left at some point early during the Wallys, as stated. 

Additionally, it's easy to hate Sundaram, and judge him harshly based on Sanchez's account and how the media has blown it up, mostly relaying Sanchez's piece with eye-catching headlines. It's easy to associate yourself with popular opinion in wanting the worst for Sundaram. However, I urge people to have compassion and realize that the events in the past few days are multilayered, although it is depicted as black and white. Have compassion and understand that you do not know the whole story all the time. Seek out the whole truth, ask more questions, and investigate the facts before you believe every headline and judge this young man so harshly. 

Now, how do we move forward? I am hopeful that unconscious racial bias will not influence the decisions of how Goutham will be disciplined by the University and treated given the long and complicated history of race and gender and how they are intertwined in this country. Sanchez points out that Sundaram's words contribute to the racist stereotype that men of color are predators of white women. It is important to make a conscious effort to examine how these racial biases impact us all. I am hopeful that we can move forward in a way that is respectful to everyone, including Goutham. We have the opportunity to better our community with the forums to continue this discussion.

Giselle Marston is a senior Computer Science and Mathematics major.