By Albert Reiss
Section: FeaturesOctober 7, 2016
This article is part of a Features investigation into the diversity of political ideas at Brandeis.
Brandeis is famous for having a robust, politically aware student body. Conversations regarding the Middle East, the American election and other sensitive political topics are common place on campus, in and out of the classroom. A recent survey by The Brandeis Hoot reveals results that these conversations are limited, as a large portion of the student body is not comfortable sharing their opinions.
“I think the reason that some students feel uncomfortable is because Brandeis has very liberal stances, and I feel that most students have a narrow viewpoint and sometimes if you veer off of that you feel afraid to speak out because you fear being judged,” Sydney Glazer ’20 said.
Glazer was not the only student who cited the liberal campus as a source of discomfort in sharing political opinions.
While 64 percent of the campus does identify as some degree of liberal, that leaves 36 percent identifying as either independent or conservative or as aligning with other party’s political views, according to the poll results.
“I think that a lot of people generally don’t like to talk about political issues just because it is a rule of thumb. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about these topics because they won’t be able to see a person the same way again,” Stephen Rosselli ’20 said.
“I think especially when we talk about the election during class a lot of people have very strong opinions, and it’s difficult to express an opinion without getting into a heated argument about it … people are very passionate about their views,” Glazer said.
Discomfort with sharing political opinions also extends to the classroom, according to Glazer. This is especially true for social science and humanities classes.
When asked during interviews how students felt approaching political topics such as the upcoming election, students indicated feeling even more hesitant than normal to express views.
“I don’t want my peers or professors to judge me. I tend to keep that to myself because of the political climate that surrounds Brandeis,” Glazer said. The liberal nature of Brandeis’ campus climate can be hard to combat especially for students who may not see completely eye to eye with the candidate’s viewpoints.
“Even if you are not for Hillary, that is an opinion that is against the consensus. The general opinion is that she is the best, and she is the greatest,” says Roselli.
Roselli noted that in one of his economics classes, his professor brings up many policies supported by the Obama administration and seems to favor them. “I know that in my high school my teachers tried to be as apolitical as possible, especially if you are talking about politics, or history, or anything of that sort,” Roselli said. This is important so that students are given the facts instead of any sort of political opinions, Roselli said.
“I think conversations are sometimes one-sided, and you don’t really get the other viewpoint a lot,” Glazer said when asked how the climate of political discussion affects her academic experience. In particular, Glazer noted how in one of her politicas classes, they “discuss this kind of material, and it tends to always veer to one side, and you never get to hear the other opinion. I would want to have a more well-rounded discussion. If people weren’t afraid to speak their political opinions, I think that could be achieved.”
Yet having come from an environment not nearly as liberal as Brandeis, Glazer has noted a change in her political views. “I come from a conservative town, so coming to Brandeis it has definitely changed my opinion on some topics, but in a good way,” she said.
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Be sure to check out next week’s edition of The Hoot for further analysis.