The Intellectual Bias panel presented April 1 asked the controversial question: Do Colleges Discriminate Against Conservatives? This discussion panel sparked my interest because I found it hard to believe that a conservative could feel out of place in such a seemingly ring-wing community. As a self-proclaimed liberal raised in a very right-minded household I often find myself ostracized for having different social and political views than my other family members. I hoped that the panel could give me a clear perspective of contrasting viewpoints, and luckily, it did just that.
“Academia is a very lonely place for the conservative,” said Mary Grabar, PhD who spoke first in the Intellectual Bias panel. Dr. Grabar opened the panel with a strong affirmation on how she has felt socially and professionally ostracized and virtually punished for her conservative views throughout her career as a professor.
I noticed a heavy presence of middle-aged, white males in the audience so I was happy to hear the perspective of a woman. Dr. Grabar brought up some very intriguing ideas that made me realize how it must feel to be the one conservative in a group of liberals, it reminded me how I often feel within my own family. It was empowering to know that she was not afraid to profess her conservative views despite being discouraged by her co-workers. As a woman hearing her take her stance, I felt encouraged to be more out spoken about my own opinions within the community.
The next speaker in the panel, Timothy Furnish, PhD., allowed a different, more intense perspective for the conservatives. As he spoke, it was somewhat difficult for me to have empathy for him as I felt he had a biased standpoint since in the past he was not selected for a teaching position at KSU.
Although Dr. Furnish mentioned some very interesting ideas, it was not until the panel got back around to Dr. Grabar when she listed a few statistics and mentioned that one in 64 professors will be conservative that I realized universities do tend to have a very liberal mindset. I could not think of having any conservative professors since I have been a student at KSU, but why? I then drew upon perhaps a more important question: is this particularly a bad thing?
Melvin Fein, PhD., a Jewish sociologist and cynical psychologist from Brooklyn, New York who has been a member of the KSU staff for over 20 years, was even more opinionated about the subject. He brought light to the questions that had been running rapid through my brain. Dr. Fien discussed that people often assume he is a liberal based simply on his job title.
It was enlightening to hear his story on how he had to fight for his position in academia and defend his job as a conservative. He also noted that professors will often convince students to think a certain way and that many times, it will be against any right-minded views. After highlighting ideas about the liberal mindset being a “disease of youth” and how young people are often mislead in the name of liberalism, I began to wonder is these professors assumed that we (students) do not have the ability to think for ourselves. Finally, Dr. Fien said something that I had been waiting to hear, “You should look at what you’re learning, weigh the evidence, and make up your own minds.”
It was then that I realized that a good professor does not simply preach his or her ideas and impose them on his or her students; a good professor raises the questions and then encourages his or her students to come up with their own answers.
I walked away from the panel with one particularly important piece of knowledge. My education is in no one’s hands but my own and it is my job to be proactive in my learning. Whether it is from a liberal or conservative viewpoint, I must discover the truth on my own.
Brittany is a senior communication major.