Opinion: UAlbany Exemplifies a Politically Diverse Campus With its Political Clubs
Diversity is a quality colleges not only strive for, but also pride themselves on. At the University at Albany, we have both an Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a Diversity Council tasked with assessing the school’s diversity. It’s a fine goal at any university, but when we discuss college diversity, political diversity is generally left out. Perhaps because it isn’t something out in the open, or maybe we’re afraid of confronting the political biases of our friends and faculty. In a politically charged environment though, especially on America’s campuses, it feels more and more like something worth addressing in our university.
Let’s get this out of the way: I’m a registered Republican. Knowing the less-than-warm welcome some universities give to Republican viewpoints, my initial attitude was to assume that everyone on UAlbany’s campus was staunchly liberal. Joining the UAlbany College Republicans has done much to inform me about the reality of this school’s political diversity. This year, our meetings have attracted over 40 students of every other form of diversity, while more have expressed support for us.
Similar numbers have come out for the other major political club, the College Democrats. There’s also Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian organization, as well as a Green Party Society on campus. This year has also seen the start of Turning Point USA, a pro-capitalist group known for trying to bring out different political views on campus, as well as Democracy Matters, a party neutral group whose goal is encouraging students to get engaged in politics.
All told, a full 34 student clubs and organizations present some sort of political bend or work on political activism, according to MyInvolvement. While I’d be remiss to say that many of those clubs have one similar political bend, it’s still a testament to the varying political ideals and goals that students on campus choose to adhere to. The numbers of students that lean right was much more than one could have anticipated.
UAlbany is politically diverse, but what does that mean exactly? It seems that in a politically heated time that political diversity is a recipe for conflict and unwanted attention on campus, but the reality couldn’t be farther from that. Political diversity is a weight that keeps a community, especially a place of learning and exploration like a university, in balance. Political and intellectual conformity are impossible in such communities. Hearing the views and arguments of another political side allows people to learn information they may have never known, test the validity of their values, and confront our own biases.
Most importantly, it makes us all understand our political opposers. All too often, people who don’t interact with those of different political views begin to see the other side as evil and immoral. Then, every person on the other side becomes a caricature. Once you feel the other side is evil, then you feel justified in hating them or even hurting them. Interaction between politically diverse people gives a human side to an ideology, and it helps us realize that when it comes to politics, we all normally want the same outcomes, we just have different ideas of how to get there.
Political diversity also makes our university environment safe and comfortable for everyone who attends. As someone who’s encountered people too afraid of how others in the university will react to join a political club, I know some on campus could use a political dialogue to know that they belong on campus. I wouldn’t want a school to only be welcoming to Republicans, and hope Democrats would feel the same.
So all in all, political diversity is a university’s latest type of diversity, but it’s something that should be celebrated on campus like any other type of diversity. It mentally strengthens us all, and may just get you to befriend your enemies.