A recent survey conducted by Smith College found that only a meager 3 percent of students identify as “conservative.” From over 1,000 respondents, only two identified as “very conservative.”
I’ve seen the impact these skewed demographics have on political discussions on campus.
Liberals don't learn to be persuasive, because they don't have to justify their positions. Conservative ideas are infrequently represented — they’re not assigned as readings, discussed by professors, or raised by students.
It’s also the case at campus political events, where reasonable pushback on liberal ideas is as rare as conservative speakers.
Understandably, because the student body is so overwhelmingly liberal, the sorts of extra-curricular speakers and events organized by the administration and faculty tend to focus on issues that liberal Democrats care about. And because speakers are preaching to the choir, conservative viewpoints are left by the wayside.
That’s why I decided to join the Smith Republican Club. Through it, I've organized events to look at issues that are less popular among liberals. For example, I invited a Smith economics professor to speak about the principles underpinning conservative economics. I've also invited a government professor to talk about the decline in support for free speech on campus over the last 15 years.
Perhaps contrary to expectations, liberal students do show up at these events.
But the Republican Club can’t do it all.
Administrators and the Student Government Association should be sure conservative ideas are represented at major events, such as the annual Presidential Colloquium series. Professors should devote more time to conservative ideas in class, and require Smithies to justify their beliefs. And as for students, my hope is that they begin to realize how biased Smith’s political environment is.
Having a stronger conservative presence on campus will not weaken Smith’s cultural identity. Instead, it will help Smithies become stronger thinkers, smarter activists and better leaders.
We deserve a culture on campus that welcomes reasonable political disagreement — one that challenges us instead of one that caters to us.
Pam Larkin, a government major at Smith College, plans to graduate this spring. She's been president of the Smith College Republican Club since her sophomore year.