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ISSUE 116 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2003

Colleges stifle political views

By Julie Gunderson
News Editor

Friday, April 11, 2003

Do you want to know what your professors don’t tell you? Billed as being an other-side-of-the-story discussion, Katherine Kersten, from the Center for the American Experiment, presented a talk on Tuesday night titled "Why Diversity Stops at the Classroom Door."

Kersten said that college campuses want to be promoted as diverse institutions, but few, if any, campuses across the country display real diversity. A college’s ideas about diversity focus on peoples’ external characteristics, not on their diversity of thought.

The lack of intellectual diversity on campus, Kersten said, stems from the homogenous political nature of college professors. Kersten pointed to a study done by a California-based research company that looked at professors’ voter registration. The study found that at Brown University 95 percent of the faculty were registered Democrats; at the University of California in Santa Barbara 97 percent were registered liberals; and at Colorado University, 94 percent of the professors were Democrats even though Colorado is a Republican state with a Republican governor and two Republican senators.

"You could find a wider spectrum of intellectual diversity at a bowling alley or a fast food restaurant than in a faculty lounge," Kersten said.

Kersten cited examples of liberal bias at St. Olaf. One example that she used was a recent forum about Iraq held on campus.

"In a recent issue of the Manitou Messenger," Kersten said, "it said that not a single faculty member could be found that supported the pro-war view."

Other examples Kersten included were the Sexuality, Spirituality and the Church Conference that was held on campus last weekend in which all the speakers were for gay marriages and a globalization conference held last semester in which anti-capitalist statements were professed.

Kersten said that a reason why conservative voices are not represented on college campuses is because conservatives don’t feel welcomed on college campuses. Even getting through graduate school can be hard for Republicans. Kersten shared a story about her friend’s graduate school experience, who was forced to keep his political views quiet and pick a thesis statement he didn’t want to write about simply because he felt he would not be accepted by the overwhelming liberal culture on his campus.

Kersten believes that many intellectuals, including professors, can harbor resentment towards those who gets rewarded in our capitalist society.

"Who do Americans reward with power? People like George W. Bush, whom most intellectual types look at as being daft or not well-read, and people like Ronald Reagan, who was a movie star. It just doesn’t seem fair to them," Kersten said. "Professors hold resentment because they believe that this system doesn’t give them the proper amount of authority and power that they deserve."

To demonstrate the political mindset of her generation, members of which have become the educators of today’s generation, Kersten shared a personal experience from her college days at Carleton.

"The spring of 1970 was a Utopian’s dream," Kersten said. "I don’t remember attending a single class."

Kersten recalled how students would gather daily in the middle of campus and students would volunteer to bury themselves in the ground up to their head in protest of the Vietnam War. Other students would volunteer to expose themselves to transmittable viruses and then to walk through draft board offices and other government buildings in an attempt shut down the government.

Kersten said that in order to bring political diversity back onto college campuses, we may have to wait.

"Diversity will continue to stop at the classroom door," Kersten said, "until my generation falls away."

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