A continuation of dialogue on politics and education

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for these civil discussions and towards the Echo for offering a vehicle for wider distribution. As Mr. Hanlon stated, these ongoing debates are key to challenging our own ideas and allowing the growth of rational political thought in this nation. These are trying times of political upheaval on both sides, and these discussions are the important in fostering a more civil and informed political base.

In terms of the relationship that exists between Milo Yiannopoulos and conservative student movements, I believe Yiannopoulos and the “alt-right” movement represent a two-fold issue for campuses and conservatives. Mr. Hanlon echoes my earlier point that Yiannopoulos does not represent the whole or even the majority of conservative students. The main issue arises with our current culture of looking for the shocking, appalling, outrageous in everything. We tend to direct our attentions to the shiniest and most ridiculous versions of a thing and focus solely on those, a phenomenon that Yiannopoulos and his compatriots represent. I will continue to agree with Mr. Hanlon that it is imperative for the mainstream and moderate conservatives to take back the spotlight through strength of ideas and reason. But will they be given that chance?

The secondary point about Yiannopoulos where I disagree with Mr. Hanlon is that the momentum is not in the favor of moderate conservatives. Yiannopoulos, as noted, has been disinvited from more than a dozen college campuses, highlighted by the recent incident at Berkley, and from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Only one of these, the rejection of invitation by CPAC, represents a win for moderates. The rebukes, sometimes violently so, by liberal college campuses only serve to strengthen and enhance Milo and the alt-right’s voice. In the modern era of YouTube and social media, incidents such as these reinforce his message while allowing him a larger platform than any one campus.

Thirdly, staunch political leanings and largely skewed professorships will over time have dramatic effects on students’ learning and discussion. While Colby Professor Neil Gross points out in his research that individual professors negligibly steer or interfere in classroom discussion, I would argue that intellectual monocultures in certain departments would very much shape the discussion and scope of future student’s learning.

As the professorship skews so heavily towards one ideological leaning, their writings and the singular groupthink of that discipline will irreparably shape the discussion within it. While they may not be actively skewing daily discussions, disciplines that heavily rely on peer-research to drive debate, as many liberal arts departments do, will be skewed by these singular intellectual monocultures that exist. These shifts will continuously favor liberal students and place conservative students on the defensive.

John Etchemendy, a former Provost of Stanford, expressed the challenges facing education in a recent speech before the Stanford Board of Trustees. “The university is not a megaphone to amplify this or that political view, and when it does it violates a core mission. Universities must remain open forums for contentious debate, and they cannot do so while officially espousing one side of that debate,” he said.

Universities and colleges taking political stances, regardless of direction, is directly harmful to the core mission. When a college like Colby takes a stance on an issue, how is that same institution supposed to foster debate around those topics? How is a student who is opposed to the public position of their institution supposed to feel comfortable speaking out when the hierarchy has declared them wrong or deplorable? Sure, there will be students who have the force of personality or conviction of belief to argue in that situation.

But would you?

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