Putting the ‘liberal’ in liberal arts school

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AUSTIN KLAWITTER | OPINION COLUMNIST | aklawitt@butler.edu

Butler University is quite unapologetically a liberal arts school. The key-word there being liberal. I did not anticipate the bias that would exist in the classroom when coming to Butler, but it has become quite apparent during my first semester here.

I was very liberal-minded before coming to college and already had well-developed beliefs about politics, social issues and the economy. Therefore, I feel right at home when peers and professors express opinions that, for the most part, align with mine.

As for the conservative student, I cannot imagine how often they wish to openly disagree with their professors but do not for fear of being disliked or receiving lower grades.

The bias that exists in the classroom is exhibited via opinions and tangents from a professor or student, often the result of class material. When studying subjects such as philosophy, politics or literature it is almost unavoidable for a professor or student to express their own opinion.  

I think it is especially true during an election cycle, and even more so with the kind of election we just had and again even more so with the election’s outcome.

The outcome of the recent election genuinely affected a lot of liberal-minded people in a very negative way. When students and professors are affected to that degree it becomes almost impossible not to share that reaction with those around you.  

Many students were subjected to class discussions regarding their feelings with the outcome, and for the conservative who was fine with the outcome or even pleased with it, it is understandable how that discussion may have made them feel uncomfortable or out of place.

Personally, it is not only comforting, but enriching and educating to have my beliefs expanded and dissected in the classroom. Butler  provided an atmosphere in which I can enhance my own opinions and express them in a setting that is comfortable and supported. Not to say conservative opinions are not heard or respected in the classroom, because from what I have been privy to, they are.

The classroom should be open to all opinions, and I believe it is, but I would imagine young conservatives become tired with the liberal opinions of their professors that may manifest themselves in the class material.  

When discussions are being had, and all opinions are expressed and respected, then the conservative may feel comfortable expressing themselves, but having to be taught liberal ideals that are labeled as right is where it becomes an issue for that student.

Being a democrat at Butler has been a comfortable experience. I can have productive discussions with peers that share my opinions, I can express thoughts and feelings to my professors that they can both support and sympathize with, and I am able to write liberal-minded articles for the Collegian that receive positive feedback from my many liberal friends.

That being said, I have many conservative family and close friends, and I do not support the attacking of one’s beliefs. I have seen a great deal of conservatives attacked and berated for differing from the liberal majority found on the college campus, and in most cases these conservatives are very educated in their opinions.

College should be an environment in which productive debate is held constantly, and opinions are expressed in a manner that does not attack the other side. Having this type of debate is what allows students to expand their own political and personal ideologies and understand where the other side is coming from.  

By attacking liberals or conservatives, debate provides nothing but hatred for the other side and becomes expressed in unhealthy ways, furthering the partisanship of both the college campus and our nation.

I encourage you all to engage in debate with someone who disagrees with you, and to try your best to respect and understand their opinions, while expressing your own in a neutral and explanative manner. You may be surprised with the knowledge you gain, or give, in return.

 

Read Kathleen Berry’s thoughts on in-class bias as a republican here.

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