A new club on campus makes it its mission to open minds as it welcomes students with unpopular perspectives to join in on important conversations.
After their third meeting last Tuesday in the campus center’s club room, The Open Mind Project (TOMP) is building momentum and membership at City College. It aims, as stated in its constitution, to “encourage intellectual diversity…by promoting traditional political and social views.”
“My number one goal is to get people outside of their echo chambers,” said Alex Madajian, Club founder and student.
Madajian, himself homeschooled from first to twelfth grade, expressed his feeling of dismay at arriving at City College and finding that it failed to represent a variety of perspectives, something he claimed to have gotten from his own alternative education.
“I firmly believe that at SBCC, there is only one narrative,” said Madajian.
“You can only go down a road for so long before you have to ask if is this the right road. SBCC will take you very far down one road but they will barely introduce others.”
TOMP is just a few weeks old but it’s already been generating a presence on campus.
The club sponsored a colloquium on religion and violence on Sept. 7 and plans on organizing debates around topics such as abortion and human rights, animal rights, equity in education funding, gun rights and laws and ethics in journalism.
During TOMP’s second meeting, the club discussed logistics before diving into a meta conversation about what it means to have an open mind.
Student and TOMP member Brett Olsen described his own take on the question.
Quoting Aristotle, Olsen said, “the hallmark of an educated person is the ability to entertain an idea without accepting it, coupled with the understanding that you can be wrong.”
Olsen heard about Madajian’s vision for the club and eagerly jumped on board.
When asked about his role in the club, Olsen explained that though he is a founding member, he always had some unease with responsibility.
“I like to be more of a supportive type,” said Olsen.
Olsen added that he is going to help the public relations officer by creating interest around the events. The club, he said, will pose open-ended questions and cater to curious students who want to explore different issues.
TOMP’s events will also incorporate Q and As so that the most engaged students can actually voice their questions and contentions.
Mark McIntire, philosophy instructor and club faculty advisor, was the link who brought Madajian and Olsen together.
Looking for an advisor with an open mind, Madajian approached McIntire at the end of last spring semester and together they refined Madajian’s vision for the club.
McIntire said his role in the club is to help with procedure, but he tries to stay out of discussions.
“I try to stay in a corner,” said McIntire. “I don’t want to abuse my authority as professor; that’s dangerous.”
McIntire, who’s been teaching philosophy at City College for 22 years, described feeling refreshed at seeing students debate in a meeting.
“Nobody ever used a label to describe their point of view; they just swapped ideas.”
Under McIntire’s guidance, Madajian realized his vision for the club with the start of this fall semester, making it his goal to represent as many marginalized opinions as possible. He’s held fast to that goal ever since.
Though Madajian has confidence in TOMP’s efficacy to promote healthy dialogue, he does have his worries about the lofty ideal of impartiality.
“That is one challenge I see for myself,” he admitted. “Representing views that I disagree with to the best of my ability and in a respectful way.”
The Open Mind Project meets 11 a.m. Tuesdays in the Campus Center Room 216. With the club growing out of its infancy, it hopes to fill more office positions and make its many voices heard.