Some time ago, David Horowitz appeared on Fox News to say that the university I graduated from is the worst school in America. While he acknowledged that we have first-class programs in astronomy and physics, he said that the real problem lies with the liberal arts colleges, which serve as “an indoctrination and recruitment center for far left ideologues.”

This week, those very ideologues climbed into trees during a protest over our long-term growth, threatening not to come down until said trees are saved from their impending doom. The protest, which started out peacefully, ultimately led to police violence and multiple arrests. Guess what led the front page of all the local papers the next day? Here’s a hint: it was neither an astronomer nor a physicist.

Quite simply, these developments break my heart. That is not my school, that is not representative of what I learned there or the people I know.

You see, this school is quite literally my alma mater. I spent the first ten or twelve years of my life on campus, playing amongst the redwoods during my father’s tenure as a professor. When it came time to apply to college, it was my top and only choice. Later, I fell in love with my husband while walking in the very same redwoods I loved as a child.

For all three decades of my life, this university has provided a solid base to the ever-changing patterns of my life. It was here that I learned how to think, question, write, and love. In other words, I learned how to be a human being.

During that time on this campus, I have encountered all kinds of other human beings, from card-carrying conservatives to computer geeks to dreadlocked individuals named Wind (no, really). Granted, there have been quite a few “far left ideologues,” and at certain points during my life I could have been grouped right along with them. But they are by no means in the majority. The campus population is large and extremely diverse, and there is no one way of characterizing everyone that it encompasses.

However, once there are pictures out there of police wielding batons against college students, that is all anyone sees. No matter that a number of people involved in the protest were not even affiliated with the university. Once the line is crossed, any chance at having a real dialogue is thrown out the window, and it becomes much easier to believe in characterizations like Horowitz’.

How can we possibly hope to change the stereotype of ourselves as a school for “far left ideologues” if that minority is the only one to make the front page of the newspaper? Where are the astronomers and physicists, the computer geeks and the conservatives? I have known them all, but only through a lifetime spent at this university. For those who are not as well acquainted, it is all too easy to use a broad brush to describe what is in truth a complex and varied community.

So I say shame on Horowitz for describing us in those terms, and shame on the protesters for giving him fodder to do so. If you have strong beliefs, by all means, stand up for them. But please, don’t express those beliefs in a way that devalues the hard work of everyone around you by reinforcing what is an already skewed image of our school.

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