The recurring theme here is diversity, diversity and more diversity. But, is Vassar’s culture truly this open-minded? Is Vassar College actually some sort of utopian society in which tolerance is exhibited toward all of its residents?
To answer these questions, let’s consider an average Political Science course in Rockefeller Hall which discusses certain aspects of domestic policy in the United States and the nature of political differences between Democrats and Republicans, particularly contemporary politicians at the federal level (say, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney). Oftentimes, a class on Monday will kick off with a recap of political events and news from the weekend, which can include a statement released by the Romney campaign or a policy proposal by the Obama administration. It’s up to the professor and students to collectively analyze these happenings. As the professor opens up the floor, students exhibit their eagerness to weigh in on the day-to-day back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans, quickly pointing out a gaffe by Mitt Romney’s campaign team or divulging a snideremark about something that Paul Ryan said three weeks ago to an insignificant news station. The classroom, or at least the resounding liberal majority, then erupts in laughter. In response to the students’ jabs at the Republican Party, the professor follows up with a sarcastic comment of his or her own, revealing a deep urge to lash out at “misguided” conservatives nationwide.
Laughing and snickering is soon compounded by more and more laughing and snickering.
With the perfect storm of criticism by the participation-happy students and all-too-eager professor, the classroom transforms into a house of jibes and taunts at the expense of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Newt Gingrich, their families, Ronald Reagan’s policies from 1980, and some random Republican candidate from 1916. In extreme cases, the students begin to resemble a pack of wolves, lunging at the first sight of Republican weakness. When a conservative falters, they are always there to pounce with their words.
If you knew nothing about the United States’ political history since the 18th century and attended the start of one of these Political Science classes, you would be led to believe that almost everyone in the U.S. is a registered Democrat.
If the average Political Science course at Vassar served as a model of the nation’s electoral landscape as a whole, you would assume that almost every American leans to the left when it comes to social issues and economic policy. According to Vassar’s model, an overwhelming majority of Americans support gay marriage, abortion, and expansionary fiscal policies. Using the typical professor and batch of students in a Rocky classroom as the adequate sample size, American society becomes one in which conservatives are ridiculed and shunned. Anything right of center is construed as fundamentally wrong and inexplicable.
So, does this fit the definition of diversity?
Diversity, diversity, and more diversity should be Vassar’s motto by now, but this perception of Vassar College as some sort of utopian society is just that. It is merely perception, falling far short of reality.
If you take into consideration the fact that the average Political Science course described above may contain a conservative or three (that’s probably a reach), any notions of open-mindedness, tolerance, and diversity seem downright absurd. If a registered Republican is confronted with a classroom full of liberal college students, potentially ranging from left-leaning centrists to passionate Marxists, all of whom impatiently wait in line to criticize the “other,” then Vassar College seems to failin its promotion of diversity. A student like this looks more like a bullied non-athlete being hounded by a rowdy group of high school football players than an enthusiastic learner in an accepting, tolerant academic setting.
In truth, the Political Science department may very well be home to some of the most blatant acts of closed-mindedness on Vassar College’s historic campus. Conservatives are often alienated and made to feel like unintelligent nobodies, with the attacks being led by professors and students in unison. If you are in any way leaning to the right,socially or fiscally, and would consider voting for a candidate like Mitt Romney, then you will find yourself on the fringes of the bubble.
For the Vassar conservative, the phrases “being included” or “being a part of” often seem foreign and unfamiliar.
What will other students even think of me after reading this piece? It’s funny that I have to ponder this question at an academic institution that prides itself on the diversity of its student body and the open-mindedness at the core of its social makeup. Where’s the diversity in Rockefeller Hall? Forgive me, but I can’t seem to find it.