It goes without saying that Binghamton University is a liberal institution. As it is a public school in the state of New York, this is no surprise, and I am no exception to this generality.
Like many other students at BU, I grew up in a liberal household. Since most of my immediate family is in agreement, it is normal to lightheartedly criticize President Donald Trump’s political decisions or his banter on Twitter. However, when my more conservative family members are present, we leave politics out of the conversation to spare ourselves an argument.
One would expect that respecting the political opinions of others would be the norm, but it has come to my attention that at BU, it is more normal for us to disregard the opinion of the minority, in this case referring to the minority of students at BU who support President Trump.
The day after the election of the 45th president of the United States, I walked into class to see a professor who was noticeably unhappy. In case you couldn’t tell by his miserable expression, he stated to our class, “I’m very unhappy.” Due to my professor’s “emotional disturbance,” class was dismissed early so that he could have a chance to “gather himself.” Something similar happened in my second class — my professor started the lecture by giving our class time to “talk about our feelings” post-election. She even offered us her office hours if we needed further time to be consoled.
While it is comforting to see that my professors at BU are progressive and sensitive to the feelings that many students had after the election, it is also alarming to realize that if I had been a Donald Trump supporter, I would have felt extremely uncomfortable. On a campus such as BU’s, dominated by more outspoken liberal counterparts, this feeling would exist year-round and not solely after the election. We should recognize that many students disagree with the commonly held “Dump Trump” principle. While you may not hear the voices of these students, they certainly do exist.
I believe it is not a professor’s job to express political views in the classroom. Obviously this notion has exceptions, such as in a political science class, but for most classroom learning, my professor’s political views are unnecessary to the goals of the class. While I recognize that all students and faculty are entitled to an opinion, I see no purpose in that opinion taking away from class time.
I do, however, recognize that we cannot completely separate politics and education, as one cannot exist without the other. The classroom could be the perfect place for discussion, and I urge BU professors to facilitate conversations about politics, but to resist interjecting with their own opinions. Instead of an echo chamber, an open atmosphere in class would create stimulating discussions and allow students to hear multiple perspectives on political matters.
Recently, the New York Times published an article titled “Smothering Speech at Middlebury,” which highlighted a similar issue. Social scientist Charles Murray, a controversial theorist, thought by protestors on the left to enable white supremacist views, had been invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont. The decision to let him speak was met with extreme conflict and protest by liberal students — his attempt to hold a Q-and-A discussion was met with so much violence that he was ultimately unable to speak.
While I, along with most liberal students, would strongly disagree with Murray’s opinions, I would hope that if Murray were to be lecturing at BU, the student body would allow him to speak. How do we know that we disagree with someone before hearing their arguments? It is imperative that we embrace opinions that are different from our own and use them as a way to strengthen our own values.
When discussing this with my grandma, she told me that college is where you should hear new ideas, and expose yourself to views that oppose your own. We learn the most by listening to opinions we do not agree with, and I hope that the professors at BU carry this sentiment into future class discussions.
Hannah Rosenfield is a junior majoring in English.
Correction: the article was updated on 4/3/2017 to clarify ambiguous wording that referred to Charles Murray as “reputable as a white supremacist” to now read “thought by protestors on the left to enable white supremacist views.”