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A New Kind of Affirmation Action By: Hannah Stearns
The Cornell Daily Sun | Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In the partisan world of higher education, free speech is fast becoming less a right and more a memory for political and religious groups on campus. In a world dedicated to the education of its students, how can any one view be silenced? Without the give and take of intelligent debate, there is no real learning experience, just the regurgitation of politically correct campus fodder.

In the 1970’s, university administrators became increasingly concerned by the marginalization of certain minority groups on their campuses. At a time when female and African-American intellectuals were beginning to demand that their voices be heard, they had no arena in which they could do so. In response to this situation, schools soon developed women’s studies and Africana studies departments. Universities across the country took affirmative action to ensure that every point of view had ample opportunity to be heard. In much the same way as in the 70’s, another ideological minority is being shut out today: conservatives. Perhaps it is now time for a different kind of affirmative action, the affirmation of the majority, which has become the minority on college campuses.

In order to avoid offending any one minority group, the majority is often censored. It is not acceptable to proclaim that you disagree with same-sex marriage on moral grounds, since you may hurt the feelings of gay rights activists. It is not OK to state that God created the world, as outlined in Genesis, because then you might be stepping on the toes of the atheists. It is not all right to talk about Jesus being the Son of God, because then you are infringing on the rights of the Jewish community. It is not all right to support the Iraq war, because then you would most definitely be accosting the sacred liberalism that runs rampant on Cornell’s campus.

But what about my views? What about my rights? Why, because I hold a majority opinion, should my ideas be shot down as uneducated sheep-like behavior? Higher education, in order to protect those with minority opinions and views, has in essence marginalized the mainstream. What happened when the Class of 2006 graduated and found themselves out of the liberal Cornell bubble and in the very conservative United States of America? Without any exposure to conservative ideas for the last four years, were they able to assimilate successfully? Or did they maintain their ignorant superiority and try to convince Republican leaders that higher taxes really are the way to save the world?

Why is it forbidden then, to educate students from all walks of life in all walks of life? Why can’t a Muslim take a class on Christianity, and hear a real Christian explaining his or her faith? Why must religion classes at Cornell be taught by atheists and others who do not understand the fundamental principles of the religious community due to their lack of faith? Why don’t we switch the faculty of the nanotechnology department with that of the art department and see what happens. If that doesn’t make sense, then why is it not a problem for your biology professor to start enumerating the many faults of President Bush in the middle of a discussion on mollusks?

I came to Cornell to get a balanced, unbiased education, but have found that this is not what is being taught. With liberal professors significantly outnumbering conservative professors, how is a student supposed to hear both sides of the story? Is it left to publications like the Review and the American to get people to think about conservative ideas?

In a study by David Horowitz and Eli Lehrer titled “Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities,” the overall ratio of Democrats to Republicans at 32 of the nation’s elite schools was more than 10 to 1 (1,397 Democrats, 134 Republicans). This clearly does not represent the political make up of the American people, which is closer to 50/50. The same lopsidedness was found among University administrators. In fact, the report states that in the entire Ivy League, only three Republican administrators were identified. This imbalance is outrageous, but perhaps most intelligent conservatives simply do not have a death wish, and so do not apply for positions in the world of higher education, knowing that they are not welcome.

At a school like Cornell, where diversity holds such a sacred place in our community, where special housing is offered for life style groups such as the Ecology House and JAM, where red arches have dotted campus, proclaiming diversity, where specific training is given to OLs and RAs so that they can sensitively discuss different ideas on our campus, how can such a large group of students, with such strong convictions, be so marginalized? Why is it that conservatives have been forced to wear the scarlet letter? Ezra Cornell once famously said, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” How has it become that “any person” does not include conservatives? And how has it become that “any study” does not encompass the ideas and ideologies of the majority?

Are administrators afraid of ideas that are different than theirs? Are they trying to avoid lawsuits from rich liberal alumni? Is it due to the lack of presence of conservative faculty? Or does the higher echelon of campus administrators really just want to make life difficult for those who think for themselves? As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate.”

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