The election of President Donald Trump has caused heated debates on college campuses about intellectual diversity.
Many right-leaning college students have criticized the liberal environments on their campuses for stifling conservative viewpoints. Their concern is that campuses and classrooms are becoming liberal enclaves with little room for any intellectual debate.
But these critiques raise the question of how students and universities define diversity.
Simply gauging intellectual diversity on a spectrum of left to right ignores the reality of what is going on at liberal college campuses like Ithaca College. The political spectrum at the college, in reality, flows from left-of-center to the right. Most liberal viewpoints, particularly those regarding mainstream and Western feminism, exist only slightly left of center on the ideological spectrum.
It is also worth noting that what many consider “liberal ideas” are rooted in social justice: recognizing the experiences and humanity of marginalized groups. Fighting for the rights and dignity of others should not be a “leftist talking point,” but should be a cause that transcends political partisanship.
What is truly missing from intellectually diverse environments are radical and non-Western lines of thinking. As politics professor Naeem Inayatullah wrote in a letter to the editor to The Ithacan, “Even within the confines of modern European history, academia largely ignores the rich potential of anarchism, fails to locate the everyday appeals of fascism, and mostly bypasses mystical religious traditions.”
Discussions about anarchism are often missing from political discussions. Viewpoints that exist outside a Western, whitewashed perspective are scarce in classroom settings because Eurocentrism is already so heavily embedded within history and politics. Some of the only spaces on campus to become exposed to non-Western, far-left ideas and literature are through particular classes found within the Center for the Study of Race, Culture and Ethnicity and the politics department. The caveat here is that many students at the college do not actively seek out these intellectually challenging courses despite their complaints of the lack of intellectual diversity on campus.
College campuses should always strive to promote intellectual diversity in and out of the classroom. Students’ beliefs should be challenged in a way that increases their political knowledge but is still respectful of their humanity. The strongest example of intellectual diversity is not just allowing conservative viewpoints into the classroom, but exploring viewpoints that span the entirety of the ideological spectrum.