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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Liberal intolerance at Brandeis

Published: February 11, 2011
Section: Opinions

There are many stereotypes that persist about Brandeis and its students. Since transferring to Brandeis University last fall, I have heard things such as: every student is Jewish, everyone is from Long Island or New Jersey, and that Brandeis students are too awkward to function. Another stereotype that I have heard, and witnessed firsthand, is that Brandeis is filled overwhelmingly with liberal students and professors. Every class I have been in has had nearly zero representation of conservative viewpoints during discussions, and the leaders of these discussions, the professors or teaching assistants, often don’t even try to seem impartial. Additionally, the club center website has five organizations that are clearly liberal or progressive in nature, compared to only two organizations that are clearly conservative or libertarian in nature.

Thankfully I am not a conservative, however I can imagine that many politically conservative students might feel their views are grossly underrepresented on campus. To get a better idea of how students view the political views at Brandeis, I interviewed a few members of the community including a member of ’Deis Dems, and a student who had previously worked for the Massachusetts Republican Party. Every student that I interviewed described Brandeis as being a liberal campus, with one person going as far to say it is far-left. Another interesting find was that every interviewee mentioned that when politics is brought up in classes or just socially, there is an assumption that everyone listening is a liberal. Another person that I interviewed singled out the Peace and Coexistence department as the most intolerant of conservative viewpoints, however, the same person said that most professors in other departments respect students with different viewpoints. When I asked the former employee of the Massachusetts Republican Party if other students respected his views he said that his ideas were “hotly contested and debated, but in the end most people respect my views. Some people can’t however.” He also stated that many professors openly mock conservative public figures in class, but almost never do the same to liberal public figures.

These interviews, when combined with my own personal experience on the Brandeis campus, confirm the stereotype that Brandeis is indeed a liberal campus. There is nothing wrong with having a liberal campus; however, there is a problem if debate is shut down and only views from one side of the political spectrum are deemed acceptable. As a political moderate, who believes that no ideology has a monopoly on good ideas, it is disturbing when only one side is represented in a class, club or event. Even worse, I have encountered a few students who get personally offended when presented with another viewpoint besides their own. I am currently in a class where the professor and the majority of the class are clearly very liberal. While the professor and the vast majority of the class are respectful of my often different viewpoint, I have been told by three different students that I should leave the class because my views were offending them. Sadly for them I will not be leaving the class, as I have found that I learn the most when surrounded by people who think and view the world differently from myself.

Too many liberal social science and humanities students at Brandeis do not take advantage of the amazing learning opportunity available by simply having a political conservation with people who view the world differently from them. One of the conservative movement’s biggest problems is that it often is guilty of just talking to itself and declaring different points of view heresy. The liberal students of Brandeis should not make the same mistake.