The Death of Political Discourse on College Campuses

In a poll sponsored by Yale University’s William F. Buckley Jr. program, 800 national undergrads said that by a nearly two-to-one margin, colleges were more tolerant to liberals. Pollster Jim McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, found that 37 percent felt school more tolerant of liberals views, just 20 percent of conservatives, and 36 percent equally tolerant.

And while students believed their schools do a good job to bolster intellectual diversity, half, or 49 percent, said they have “often felt intimidated to share beliefs other than their professors.” And 50 percent felt intimidated to share their thoughts with students whose views differ.

That’s from The Washington Examiner‘s article.

I’m actually surprised that the numbers aren’t more extreme.  I suspect that a lot more than 37% of campuses are “more tolerant of liberal views.”  College campuses can make it quite intimidating to share Conservative views.  When I was in school professors regularly pontificated on all matter of political issues unrelated to the curriculum.  I remember the day of the 2004 presidential election, one of my English professors (in a class on Detective Fiction) spent the entire lecture period comparing John Kerry to Sherlock Holmes and W to Professor Moriarty (or something like that).  During the next class period a Conservative student, who happened to be a co-worker of mine, brought up that the lecture made her feel uncomfortable about expressing her own divergent views.  Predictably, the professor dismissed her concerns and she was heckled by a few other students.  I always thought she had real balls, even if she was wrong about Bush.

I have to say that I agree with what this survey showed regarding the difference between public and private campuses — having experienced both, the private school was definitely more welcoming to both sides of the debate.  Then again, the private campus was a lot less politically active in general (the one time I thought I saw a protest it turned out to be some kind of sorority event).

This same survey shows something pretty disparate (also from the Examiner):

  • Greater than six in ten (63%) say political correctness on college campuses is either a “big problem” (19%) or “somewhat of a problem” (44%).
  • Fifty-five percent (55%) of students say they are aware of “trigger warnings” and 63% would favor their professors using them, while 23% would oppose.

Students don’t equate “trigger warnings” with political correctness, I guess.  That seems a bit off to me.  Then again, at least trigger warnings are an honest attempt to do something about a perceived problem.  Advocates of the PC trend want credit just for acting offended.  I think the advocates of trigger warnings are genuine, they should just care more about the fact that their methods might stifle some speech; the PC police, on the other hand, are often just trying to out-progressive each other.

I hate to side with the Conservatives in a debate about academia, seeing as some mainstream Conservative ideas are — how do I put this? — so anti-intellectual.  But universities are doing a real disservice to young people, who so often only hear one side of the debate.  Nothing wrong with going off to college, joining the Young Socialists, becoming a vegan and getting your nose pierced if that’s what you really believe in.  But if we’re going to have a real discourse, all voices (even the ones that are dead wrong) have a right to be represented.

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