"Don't drink vinegar. Good in salad dressing...bad in your throat." - Claudio
Question #88564 posted on 12/13/2016 8:53 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was admitted to a reputable graduate program in English lit, and although I had to defer a year, I'm still part of the Facebook group. The culture of the group is very different from BYU's.

I consider myself a classical economic and social liberal, and still, I find it to be an echo chamber of what you might term left-wing grievance. The election has, ahem, not lessened tensions.

There are a handful of students who are strongly committed to fighting structural racism/sexism/other -isms through their syllabi. That's not an approach that feels authentic to my worldview, frankly: if I teach Shakespeare, say, I don't think I'm righting historical wrongs.

So, do you think that there will be a strong instiutional pressure to be "politically correct," so-called? An article in the NYTimes today got me thinking about the divisions on campus: if I feel awkward expressing my opinions (and I'm very much a secular liberal, not even a moderate), are conservative students indeed muzzled? Or is this concern overblown in light of the larger cultural climate, and what gets counted as canonical literature?



Dear Portia,

That's a tricky situation to be in. As a fellow humanities major, I understand your predicament somewhat. The people who flock to humanities-related careers tend to be a liberal bunch, and sometimes when a bunch of people who think the same get together, they push each other too far to one side without thinking of the other side's perspective. Echo chambers are, if we've learned anything from this past election, a dangerous and toxic thing.

As for whether you'll be "muzzled" for your conservative viewpoint, it does seem like liberal arts academia leans, well... liberal. Hence the name, I guess. There probably will be an institutional pressure to express liberal viewpoints, sort-of like the social pressure to express conservative viewpoints at BYU. If the majority of a group thinks a certain way, they might feel uncomfortable if someone puts it in jeopardy.That might mean when you express a conservative perspective, you may find multiple responses that challenge your opinion, and you might want to consider responses in such situations.

In a way, though, this makes your opinion important to share with your colleagues. Hopefully you're going to a graduate school that fosters an open-minded atmosphere, with professors who encourage diversity in background and opinion. Because you might see things differently than some of your fellow grad students, you can help them see perspectives they may have been sheltered from at their undergraduate universities. If they've been surrounded by liberal-minded students their entire academic career, your opinion may help them cultivate tolerance and empathy for a conservative mindset.

Nothing but good comes from hearing a differing perspective. Just as your world view may change by hearing their alternative viewpoints, theirs may be challenged and ultimately enriched by understanding what they might not have previously considered. What I'm trying to say is, yes, if you're in a graduate program with mainly liberal-identifying students, they may not feel as comfortable listening to a conservative background. But this can be a good thing! Hopefully you will be able to accept their viewpoints and they yours.

Best of luck at grad school, friend!

-Van Goff (who, keep in mind, is an undergraduate, not a grad student)