For the most part, GW professors are liberal. This is not breaking news at all for academia as a whole or for a secular, urban university like ours.
As a Republican, I accept this. Another Election Day is behind us, and I know that most of my professors went blue on their ballots.
But this becomes a problem when liberal professors cross the line between teacher and activist. It creates an alienating tension worsened by the inherent power relationship between teacher and student.
Blatantly favoring one group over another wouldn’t be acceptable for any other group of people. It shouldn’t be acceptable in academia – supposedly a space for open and intellectual dialogue – to make students with minority political viewpoints feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
During one class my freshman year, I felt this way. I was apprehensive about speaking out or trying to counter the arguments that were presented in lecture.
My political science professor openly emphasized his disgust with those who subscribe to the idea that we should interpret the Constitution word-for-word – a point of view that more than one Supreme Court justice subscribes to. And he constantly criticized Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign.
As a freshman with virtually no experience even speaking with a professor, I had no idea how to react. How many freshmen have the courage to raise their hand and debate with a professor – let alone if the professor openly disses your viewpoint before you’ve even voiced it?
I felt like he simply didn’t care that there might be a few Republicans in the room. And the worst part was there wasn’t much that I could do about it, either.
A friend of mine who describes herself as an independent recently told me about her own experience: In an environmental studies class, the professor consistently blamed the lack of environmental improvement entirely on Republicans.
He might be right that Democrats are more open-minded on climate change. But party-bashing doesn’t contribute to the course, so why did the professor find it necessary to insert his or her liberal point of view into the discussion? Open conversation and the sharing of ideas are central to getting an education, and exclusively liberally biased commentary does nothing to encourage free thought. It only stifles it.
As a Republican, it is easy to feel uncomfortable in classes taught by mostly left-leaning professors. And even those teachers who stress that their political affiliations are irrelevant sometimes slip up and wrongly assume that their lectures are geared toward an exclusively liberal audience.
Politically active schools like GW should represent the gold standard of politically unbiased academia, not unbalanced partisanship. And professors are wrong to assume that just because many of their students are liberal, all of us are willing to drink the Kool-Aid.
No student should have to fear compromising a belief in order to do well on a paper. Raising a hand in discussion to make an unpopular point shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience. Professors should be facilitating important dialogues around contentious issues, not regurgitating their political opinions in their one-sided lectures.
So yes, GW is a liberal school, and I welcome professors to challenge my thinking. But I’d prefer not to pay for those arguments I could easily hear just by turning on MSNBC.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.