Thursday, October 16, 2008

Decision 2008

Political Conservatives At Marymount? They Do Exist
By Mary McGee

Students and faculty at Marymount Manhattan College often take pride in what they feel is a very open and accepting atmosphere, but not everyone feels so accepted. This being an election year, politics is often the subject of conversation both in and out of classes. Often, the conversation is friendly because most of the participants agree and support the same candidate: Barack Obama.

Class discussions may start with the professor, possibly expressing a grievance. Students then chime in, agreeing with the liberal minded professor. More students nod in approval.

Diane Zambrotta is not nodding. She’s remaining silent. Zambrotta knows quite a bit about winning elections, as she is the president Marymount’s Student Government Association. She knows quite a lot about politics as well, but is afraid to voice her opinion.

“I’ll just get shot down,” she says. “A teacher even once said, ‘you’re not voting for McCain, are you?’”

Zambrotta is not sure who she’s voting for yet, and she feels that is something her peers should respect her for, rather than ridicule.

SGA vice-president Zach Harrel, also politically moderate agrees with that sentiment. “People claim to be so open, and they’re not. Conservatives are automatically seen as unintelligent, and that’s not true.”

But whose responsibility is it to make conservative students feel accepted?

It’s a fine line professors have to walk between expressing themselves and making sure all students feel they can do the same.

“I once had a student write on an evaluation that I talked personal politics too much, but I really think it was mostly the other students,” says professor Michael Backus. The specific case he speaks of regards a conservative, gay student. And while he admits the other students may have responded strongly to his opinions, he says he never ridiculed the student or his opinions. “It’s completely appropriate for a professor to express views provided they don’t suppress others.”

“Are we saying that someone with world experience shouldn’t have an opinion?” asks Dr. Kent Worcester, the chair of the Social Sciences division. Based on his own observations, he’s broken down Marymount students into three political categories: “Progressives, Liberals, and East Coast Republicans.”

Moderates like Zambrotti and Harrell will most likely agree with his assessment of their views. “Socially liberal and alienated by their party. They are more up for grabs this election than they have been in years,” Worcester says. He encourages students to speak up, only intervening because “my tolerance does not extend to intolerance,” from members of either party.

Although Marymount is a college for the liberal arts, not everyone is liberal, which is something both students and faculty will need to keep in mind.

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