O’Connor: Liberal students, faculty should be more considerate of conservative viewpoints
The recent release of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion’s final report has given new life to buzzwords like “diversity” and “inclusivity.” But the absence of recommendations regarding the acceptance of varying political ideologies is representative of a greater cultural problem on a campus as liberal as Syracuse University’s.
The workgroup made suggestions on how to improve the university’s relationship with underrepresented groups at SU, including the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities and students and faculty of color. Yet the Syracuse University campus arguably still lacks acceptance for marginalized political leanings like conservatism — leaving students on the right side of the aisle as a stigmatized population on college campuses.
Though the issue tends to go unnoticed, this stigma impacts the ways in which conservative students are able to enjoy their college experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, with separate interests, but it’s not right for students’ families to shell out thousands of dollars per year on an education in an environment where they are thought less of because of their political views.
Even on a personal basis, I’m not an over-the-top political person, but I deserve the respect that I have for others on this campus. And this level of respect is one that every conservative student is entitled to when this rift is likely a combination of the increasingly liberal millennial demographic and the arguable lack of diversity within faculty ideology, a problem that spans across universities in regions throughout the United States.
There was outrage at Emory University just last week over an unidentified person who wrote “Trump 2016” in chalk at various locations on university property. It was an act that apparently left many students no longer feeling “safe.” Yes, that’s right, over chalk. Fox News reported that protesters and politically-inclined campus groups vocalized concern for those who support Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s “insensitive” speech and ridiculed his backers for being promoters of hateful rhetoric and discrimination.
Sure, part of the problem may be that millennials have become too sensitive. But just last semester in a class on the U.S. federal government in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, any time a known Republican politician’s name came up, I saw a bickering among the majority of students — a condescending tone for anyone who supported something they didn’t.
“If I had to diagnose it, I would say it has its roots in the students of the universities taking a much harsher, more militant view of those who even mildly disagree with them,” said Wyatt Suling, the chair of the College Republicans at Syracuse University, when asked about the big-picture problem for conservatives on university campuses across the board.
All things considered, though, students may not be the ones totally responsible.
In February, a student at Pomona College named Steve Glick, who was also the editor-in-chief of the Claremont Independent journal, stepped down from his position at the college’s Writing Center. Glick said higher-ups attacked him for preventing the center from becoming a “safe space” for students, most likely as a reaction to his story about no-whites-allowed “spaces” at the Claremont Colleges.
The Writing Center even sent out an email, without explicitly mentioning Glick’s name, saying that they had a “white supremacist” on the staff, Glick said. He was eventually placed on probation by the center’s leaders over what they considered a hostile tone, leaving him no choice but to quit.
“I think the bigger issue is that the professors are so overwhelmingly left-leaning at most schools,” said Glick.
A 2015 study from the Heterodox Academy found that the number of liberal faculty members at universities across the country has jumped from 42 percent in 1990 to 60 percent in 2014. This is a trend that doesn’t represent the general American population, though. The same report said that 35 percent of people are conservatives while only 27 percent identify as liberal.
Yes, college is supposed to be meant for exposure to different beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that it’d be beneficial to fill universities with a vast majority of liberal professors.
When conservative students are made to feel silenced in this way, a classroom can become very one-sided without attempts from a professor to make material more objective or open for fair debate. For example, if there were to be a discussion about income inequality, students shouldn’t be forced into analyzing readings with similar liberal viewpoints or required to listen to one left-leaning guest lecturer on why the respective class being a majority white proved their argument on disproportionate wealth.
That’s not to say income inequality isn’t a structural problem, but without students being exposed to different political perspectives on the topic, it’s simply not possible for a potential and informed solution that would aid both sides to emerge from the discussion.
In this way left-leaning universities have fostered an environment that makes certain rational political viewpoints feel unwelcome and it’s necessary for the institution to stand up for them. And these schools should look to create a campus community in which there are more balanced classroom environments by encouraging a faculty body of diverse political opinion and students to be more considerate of seemingly minority political views.
Kyle O’Connor is a sophomore sport management major and political science minor. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on March 28, 2016 at 11:30 pm