Scripps College’s decision to disinvite George Will sparked
controversy throughout the Claremont Consortium. His June 6 column,
“Colleges become the victims of progressivism,” caused an uproar when he used
sexual assault cases as an example of how the government intervenes too heavily
in higher education. As a result of the column, the Scripps administration
rescinded his invitation without consulting the student body for its collective opinion.
Scripps President Bettison-Varga said in a letter to the Scripps student body that “sexual assault is not a
conservative or liberal issue.” She was absolutely correct; sexual violence
crosses all boundaries of religion, race, ethnicity, political ideology and
However, is it safe to assume that all Scripps students
would have agreed to disinvite Will? I say absolutely not, but the political
climate on campus makes it easier to make absolute decisions.
The latest issue of The
Claremont Independent includes an article discussing the political divisions
between Democrats and Republicans within the Consortium. CMC Professor Emeritus
Ward Elliott spent the last 40 years conducting a study on student and faculty opinions on American politics. As it stands in 2014, there
are zero self-identified Republican
professors at Pomona, Pitzer or Scripps.
This doesn’t surprise me, nor should
it surprise anyone who has spent at least a year at the 5Cs. That does not,
however, make it any less disturbing that a college environment preaching
diversity at admissions events and in the press could foster such homogenous
Theoretically, if academia intends to challenge the
convictions of our time, then it would have some strong representation of
various backgrounds and political ideologies. The Claremont Colleges host a
wide variety of disciplines, with professors of various socioeconomic
backgrounds, racial and gender identities, and religious beliefs. Diversity
committees exist in most of the student senates. Claremont funds
hundreds of clubs that cater to different identities on campus. It is without
question that, in most cases, we live in a relatively diverse community.
But one place where diversity fails here is within the political spectrum. I stand here as a
moderate conservative, but I have yet to take a class with a truly conservative
professor. In fact, other than in economics classes, the conservative
point of view rarely gets discussed at all.
I can imagine the following scenario: If conservatism gets
discussed in class, especially at Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps, students learn
about such beliefs through the lens of a liberally-minded, Democratic professor
who may or may not hold certain prejudices against the other party. Since we
look up to our professors and trust their expertise and their judgment, we are
inclined to trust any words, positive or negative, that they would say about
I believe that such a perverted exposure to conservatism peddles ignorance and furthers partisanship rather than promotes acceptance and tolerance. A student cannot truly understand the conservative or libertarian point of view without sitting down with a professor holding such convictions. How does a political science major recognize the right’s ideologies without taking a class specifically on the origins of conservative thought? It is hard to accept the differences of political opinions if our academic institutions don’t bring in the other side of the political spectrum.
How do we, as students,
understand the mindset of nearly half the United States when we remain
imprisoned in an academic setting overwhelmingly controlled by those on the left
of the political spectrum?
In order to fight the marginalization of unpopular opinions
and make all students feel safe, academia must stand up for all students’
rights of free speech and free expression. Suppressing conservative opinions on
campus, as well as not bringing in more academics holding such principles,
causes a form of marginalization that should not exist in liberal
institutions like higher education. To stand up for liberalism means to allow
the opinions of all, whether you disagree or not, to have the same ability to share their points of view as you possess.
If three out of the five Claremont Colleges do not have a
single Republican professor on their staff, that only further demonstrates a
lack of commitment to the tenets of liberalism that our administrations and
admissions departments preach to the choir.
I am unique in that I arrived in Claremont as a liberal, and
I will leave it as a conservative. My experiences inside and outside the
classroom helped me open my mind to the other side of the political spectrum, and I realized that my prior prejudices toward the right were unfounded. But I
still worry that as long as Claremont academia continues a trend of keeping political
leanings toward the left of the political spectrum, it will discourage the
voices of the right to speak up.
If we wish to work toward liberalism as it
should be defined, then I suggest that all five colleges start hiring
Republicans for professorships. It is the last hurdle that Claremont must
overcome to truly achieve diversity.
Elliott Hamilton PZ ’15 is an economics major and a politics minor. He is a Founding Father of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and a member of the Claremont College Republicans.