A little too liberal arts: Looking from the Left

Posted by Kate Gill

My exposure to political conservatism has been limited, to say the least. I was raised in New York City and heavily insulated against all things Republican. In high school, my education remained on the left side of the political fence. Although I knew that Skidmore was liberally inclined, I anticipated that for the first time I might come into contact with students of a different political background. But I was wrong; the atmosphere at Skidmore is, for the most part, very liberal.

Yes, there is a Young Republicans Association (SYRA) on campus, but in general, Skidmore's conservative voices are muted. The SYRA's website refers to former alumni members—rather than current students—an indication that the club has been inactive in recent months. This is not to say that I expected an East Coast liberal arts school to be crawling with Republicans, but I did hope to encounter a more politically diverse student body. Skidmore is by no means at fault; it is no secret that most, if not all, North Eastern schools lean to the left. A lack of political diversity is not so much a crime as it is a shame.

The term "diversity" is a popular favorite on college campuses. Institutions throw the word around in hopes of improving their image — we have X many students of color and Y students of such and such nationality. Without question, racial diversity is a high-ranking priority for liberal arts administrations, and often for prospective students as well. But the concept of diversity should apply to more than just race. The past ten years have not been conducive to bipartisanship. In an age of such tense political polarization, individuals now identify not only as male or female, black or white, but also as either red or blue.

College is a period of exploration, isn't it? For four years we are given the license to figure out where we stand — why we believe what we do. College is, to a certain extent, an educational and social means to a political end. Many important lessons are learned outside of the classroom; teaching can be on a peer-to-peer basis. Yet at a predominantly liberal school, most students are merely preaching to the left wing political choir. It is unfortunate that the conservative population at Skidmore does not vocalize their opinions more often. Perhaps there are more Republicans than I am aware of. But I can imagine that being an outspoken conservative is not easy at a place like Skidmore, where there's a stigma against many right wing values.

Such a phenomenon is not limited to Skidmore College: at many North Eastern schools the student population is politically homogeneous. I grew up a liberal, and I will most likely remain one. But I find I learn best when I am forced to challenge the basis of my beliefs. As students, we should become involved with all aspects of the world in which we live. I would argue that when a school refers to itself as diverse, its political alignment should be a part of this title.

Kate Gill is a liberal-minded first-year student from Manhattan.

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