Freshman wants school to encourage political diversity among students, too.
Columbia University, like other American institutions, bends over backwards for racial and cultural diversity while crushing its political equivalent.
When hundreds of students gathered on Low Steps to watch the election results come in and after the buzz around campus following the results—especially when the audience booed at Mitt Romney’s results—it became painfully obvious how politically homogenous the Columbia student body is.
The issue with a homogeneous community (often lauded as a sign of unity) is that it misses out on the benefits of dissent, argument, and opinion. Columbia University prides itself on the cultural diversity that we achieve, and it does everything to further promote that cultural diversity. However, when it comes to political differences, Columbia does very little to promote the diversity we share, and if anything, through large, sponsored community events like the communal viewing of the elections, sweeps different political views under the rug.
The homogeneous quality of political opinions doesn’t actually unify the student body, but rather inhibits any progress. Uniformity simply creates a society where one’s political beliefs are hailed as correct and are placed on a pedestal if the majority of the student body agrees with those views. It therefore doesn’t provide for any learning or for any possibility of change. Furthermore, the student body will let claims go unquestioned and will repeat them if they concur with the majority opinion. To use a very simple example, in nature, biodiversity is extremely important to the longevity of a group—without the differences in nature, a group is more susceptible to extinction. We are no different—with no differences in political beliefs, our community will eventually reach a point where we are unable to aptly defend our views against others—our life of the mind will atrophy.
As Alex Collazo aptly states in his column, (“Politics are Personal,” Nov. 11), “At Columbia, you will find anarchists, libertarians, conservatives, reactionaries, militarists, socialists, communists of all stripes, and even a few students who are, in substance if not in self-identification, fascist.” It appears as though Columbia, by constantly engaging the student body in all matters relating to religion, race, sexual awareness, and not engaging the body in political matters, recognizes that political opinions can be the most divisive differences that exist amongst the student body—yet it doesn’t recognize the repercussions of its suppression of discourse of those political opinions. A quick look on Columbia’s Student Affairs website shows multiple organizations that attempt to solve the issue of a lack of diversity such as the Black and Latino Student Organization, as well as methods for LGBT students to be able to easily communicate with the University, but nowhere on its website does it talk about its political diversity, or lack thereof. On that same website, Columbia simply states that it “is committed to creating and supporting a community diverse in every way: race, ethnicity, geography, religion, academic and extracurricular interest, family circumstance, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and more.” By not mentioning a lack of political diversity on the Student Affairs website, Columbia effectively turns a blind eye to the issue.
The University needs to promote these political differences by constantly engaging the student body to discuss their issues. Columbia can’t always leave it to student organizations like the Columbia University Democrats, or the Columbia University Campus Republicans or even the Columbia Political Union, in order to promote the discourse and edification of its student body—it must work with these organizations to ensure political discourse. Even though the Columbia Political Union publishes a pre-election book describing the opinions that each candidate has, promotes structured debates between the Columbia University Campus Republicans and Columbia University Democrats, and promotes political beliefs through the Columbia Political Review and the Columbia Political Union’s Blog, the CubPub, they do not actively promote civil discourse amongst the student body. The Columbia Political Union has previously sponsored debates between the CU Dems and CUCR on topics pertinent to the Election, yet discourse and debate on political issues have since died off.
For students at Columbia, engaging with different political beliefs is the ultimate challenge—a challenge that will not divide, but unite the students. Students will realize that debates, arguments, and discourses that result from engaging with students of other political beliefs than theirs will embolden their own opinions and leave them with a better sense of the Columbia community, or will cause them to review their stances and change their opinions. Columbia is only a sum of our parts. It’s time that we embrace our political diversity.