SU along with other colleges considered to be liberal, but colleges offer opportunities for all views

/ The Daily Orange

To the left, to the left

It’s an age-old talking point of conservatives: Colleges are liberal.

Professors and fellow students are all the same — they all have a supposedly similar political stance. Syracuse University, along with most other colleges, is lumped into this stereotype.

Conservatives argue that by going to college, their viewpoints are constantly challenged because of the liberal leanings of colleges. Generalizations about SU being liberal may have some element of truth when considering raw data. College is meant to challenge all viewpoints.

Former Republican Party front-runner Rick Santorum summed up the talking point when he explained why President Barack Obama wants everyone to go to college. “The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country,” Santorum said.

While Santorum may be out of the presidential race, his ideas on college are not uncommon. He and others believe higher education may not be trying to better inform young people, but instead is a tool that pushes an ideology on them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s debatable whether or not professors’ views rub off on students. Some of the best political science professors are so neutral that they leave students guessing at their viewpoints and political affiliations. Others are more transparent in their political standpoints.

Understanding and examining different viewpoints is a skill that is developed in college. In classes dealing with subjects that lend themselves to different viewpoints, faculty members generally help sharpen this skill.

When we consider the political viewpoints of those in college, data back up the idea that college is a liberal environment. As education level goes up, people become more left leaning, according to American National Election Studies data. The two factors are not related by cause and effect — education does not necessarily cause us to become more liberal — but they are strongly correlated.

States with more college graduates lean Democratic, whereas those with fewer degrees of higher education tend to lean Republican, according to data from the Progressive Policy Institute.
In 2010, Democrat Dan Maffei defended his House seat in New York’s 25th congressional district including Syracuse. Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle, the current district incumbent, was not well supported by SU employees.

In a 2010 report, The Daily Orange found that 24 SU employees contributed $21,275 to Maffei and just one employee contributed $50 Buerkle’s campaign. While the overwhelming difference in campaign donations made during the 2010 House campaign are not definite proof that SU is liberal, they add to the generalization.

Complaining about how SU is a liberal campus with liberal professors and students is worth very little. Challenging viewpoints and engaging with others who disagree is part of what college is here for, regardless of one’s political viewpoint.

As students both liberal and conservative, we should seek out professors, classes and peers who challenge our views to the point that we may not be comfortable. If we agree with professors and peers, we can also challenge their arguments.

With a price tag of more than $50,000 per year, we should be ensuring that we get what we pay for. A college education should enable the exploration of viewpoints.

Harmen Rockler is a senior newspaper journalism and political science major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at or followed on Twitter at @LeftofBoston.


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