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2013 Winter Issue 7 (March 1, 2013)

Is There Enough Political Diversity on Campus?

March 3, 2013
By Ben Strauss

Have you ever wondered about students’ opinions? Or what current issue is most important to them? What issue do they want to discuss either about Carleton’s policies or national law?

Last Sunday, residents of the Davis, Burton, Severence Halls complex attended a political diversity discussion as a study break in the Great Hall to posit these sorts of questions and talk about different issues in an open forum-style discussion.

“The purpose was to explore the diversity of political thought on Carleton’s campus, hopefully by showing that many students can’t be simply categorized into ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ but have more complicated views on issues,” said Evan Liebowitz ‘13, a Residential Advisor (RA) and one of the organizers of the event.

While it is true that on campus, there is an underlying assumption that everyone is of the same liberal mindset, this discussion clearly proved this stereotype wrong. Discussion made it clear that there are a variety of beliefs on campus and the Residential Assistants who planned the event made it a welcoming environment for students to do so.

The topics discussed weren’t only strictly liberal or conservative, either. “It covered a wide variety of issues and included viewpoints from the left, right, and center, which I liked,” said Nimita Iyer ’15, a third Burton RA.

Students talked about politics while eating many different flavors of ice cream. “I thought the event was really welcoming, comfortable, and intimate,” said Anna Guasco ’16, a resident on third Burton. “I definitely felt encouraged to voice my opinions and I noticed that everyone was very respectful of disagreements.”

Added Will Gray ’14, the first Burton RA, “The political diversity event did a great job creating a comfortable, lively space in which to discuss potentially controversial issues.”

People felt open to listen about a wide variety of opinions, although most people attending the event had similar outlook, but weren’t afraid to play devil’s advocate during discussion. “I felt that everyone was open to hearing others’ opinions, and I felt comfortable sharing my political views,” said Brady Still ’13.

As for why this is, Liebowitz explained that, “Many Carleton students with conservative views might be unlikely to attend political programs, because these viewpoints are clearly in the minority on campus.”

The central activity of the event revolved around a political opinion chart that the organizers had created. It had boxes for various important issues like the war in Afghanistan, gun control and gay marriage and common positions people take on those issues.

“People placed six stickers into boxes representing the viewpoint that you most passionately agree with, the viewpoint that you feel threatened by/would be scared if it were law, the topic that you feel least informed about, the topic that you wish were discussed more nationally, and the topic that you wished were discussed more on Carleton’s campus,” said Liebowitz.

The chart helped provide for an interesting talk about politics. “I liked the chart because it did a great job of visually showing where people’s feelings lie without singling anyone out,” said Guasco.

“Although everyone who attended expressed liberal viewpoints,” said Liebowitz, “it was interesting to see the range of topics that people were passionate about and how their backgrounds influenced these decisions.”

“I would love to do similar events in the future,” he said,  “but I would hope for a larger turnout and more people with conservative viewpoints to feel welcome to join in the discussion.”

Clearly, political diversity discussion provided for a very interesting discussion and really engaged participants. Such open environments would really help flush out some problems with current issues, especially going forward.

“I think it would be a huge benefit to the Carleton community to continue to hold such events in the future,” said Gray.

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