USF has often been called a “progressive liberal bubble” where everyone has the same ideas. While there are students at our university with opinions that are not aligned with the left, they often keep their opinions to themselves in fear of being ostracized by their classmates and peers. Does USF have a campus atmosphere that encourages the sharing of ideas, without fear?
First, it is important to note that in an academic environment, there will never be a situation in which everyone is going to feel comfortable speaking up — even if the topic isn’t inherently political. That’s not the nature of learning how to think critically. All of us have our own reservations about speaking up, even if these aren’t imposed by the atmosphere of the campus.
However, it is the responsibility of the student to find the courage to speak up. While it’s true that people may disagree with you, it’s important to be able to speak your mind and overcome that discomfort.
This doesn’t mean that students here don’t add to the discomfort. The student body here has a habit of tripping over itself to bask in its own feel-good practices. As a community, we tend to avoid any confrontation or disagreement because we equate conflict with violence and somehow we think that having different views is a cardinal sin.
The Foghorn does not find it a problem that the majority of students identify as being on the left. Some colleges lean to the right, some to the left — that happens. But it’s a problem that there is a segment of USF students who don’t even want to hear opposing views. This campus is an echo chamber, and everybody is racing to the left. It’s one thing to see a presentation from a conservative person and disagree with it (the presenter had the right to choose the topic and the class has the right to disagree), but there are people who don’t think the presenter should be allowed to present on that topic at all.
What sets apart mid-sized liberal arts schools from larger universities is the fact that we have the privilege to have those complex class discussions and debates that we might not be able to have at a large state university. We should be able to hear differing opinions without combusting.
One of the biggest deterrents that keeps students from speaking their minds are professors. In high school, teachers can barely say their religious beliefs, much less their political ones. However, in college, it is common for professors to be politically active.
There is a benefit to hearing the beliefs of your professors, as they most likely have a more nuanced worldview than you due to experience, but professors being so public about their political beliefs can act to indirectly silence students. Our faculty is talented and wise, but vocal political beliefs will always influence a classroom. When you know how the professor thinks, there’s a lot more pressure because students don’t want to disagree with them.
It is normal to have strong political beliefs, but there is a difference between defending your ideas and silencing the opposition — and it seems like USF is leaning more and more into the latter category. Everyone at USF, no matter their political affiliation, should feel like they can safely share their ideas without derision.