Georgetown, It’s Time to Ensure Ideological Diversity on Our Campus

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On January 28th, 2020, the Legal and Political Studies Association held a panel discussion: ‘Impeachment, Iran and World War 3’, an event with a relevant and contemporary topic. There, Professor Anatol Lieven, Professor Clyde Wilcox, and Professor Leonard Williams discussed what was then the hot topic of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ( one from which the President later emerged acquitted ). Throughout the event, President Trump was laughed at and mocked. Professor Anatol Lieven called the United States’ action to assassinate General Soleimani “illegal” according to International law even as debates on legality were going on. What I did not encounter in that event was a dissenting opinion.

There was not a single panelist representing a differing perspective: one that argued that President Trump’s actions did not meet the category of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Nor was there a single speaker who offered a dissenting view on whether the United States committed wrongdoing in taking out Soleimani. While many are indifferent to the lack of dissenting opinions in these conversations, this event made me reflect on the ideological diversity at Georgetown University in Qatar.

The lack of ideological diversity in the Legal and Political Studies Association’s event is part of a general trend of Anti-Conservative bias on college campuses. In a study titled ‘Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology‘, Mitchell Langbert, Anthony J. Quain, and Daniel B. Klein observed voter registrations of professors of famous American universities. The scholars noted that on average Liberal Professors outnumber their Conservative counterparts by 11.5:1. This inevitably has led to discrimination against conservative views of thought. 

Dr. Richard Vatz of Towson University noted, “It is difficult for conservatives to get hired, and once hired, it is difficult for them to get promotion and tenure — particularly in the humanities and social sciences, wherein liberal orthodoxy rules.” He also stated that this unbalanced proportion of liberal and conservative professors has affected the ideology of the students: “The students who have predominantly liberal professors end up supporting the orthodoxy of their professors, and teachers who lack integrity ensure that academic rewards of good grades, recommendation letters and general support go only to those students who follow their belief system, especially in non-business and non-scientific areas.”

Members of Georgetown University Main Campus in Washington D.C have also raised the issue of a lack of intellectual diversity on campus. Professor John Hasnas — Professor of Law (by courtesy) at Georgetown University Law Center and Professor of Business at Georgetown Mcdonough School Of Business — noted in the op-ed The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid that in some of the faculty selection committees he took part in, there was no effort made to increase political diversity. Instead, he confesses that he had encountered some search committees where the chairman explicitly stated that “libertarian candidates” will not be selected. Practices like these all result in the campus turning into indoctrination centers of a particular ideology, which Dr. Vatz warned against. To save the nature of the University as a place of free thought, we need to have a variety of opinions on campus.

We argue for diversity on campus: racial diversity, ethnic diversity, but we often forget intellectual diversity. Intellectual diversity is vital on campus because it helps us strengthen our opinions, it helps us reform our thought, and because it defines what a university is.

Unless and until we encounter ideas that we do not like, we cannot effectively develop a defense of the ideologies we espouse. In a University that is saturated with a single set of opinions, it is easy for one to believe what they think is right simply because they believe what the majority believes in.

When we ensure ideological diversity on campus, conventional and popular ideas are challenged by counter-opinions. This clash of ideas will force one to examine the things they believe. Such a collision of views will help people find justification based on logic and reason for their ideas, and learn new perspectives that they may find important. As a result, they will be encouraged to find new ideas and opinions, and ultimately, they might be led to find their new views through this clash of ideas brought by intellectual diversity. 

For example, a person who might have argued for open borders all his life, through intellectual diversity, would see some rationality behind restricting immigration through arguments made by conservative thinkers on immigration: restricted immigration can increase wage rate for nationals for jobs that don’t require foreigners; and, limited immigration can protect locals from those immigrants who might threaten national security or local order. That person might change his opinions if he finds that his original position couldn’t be supported with reason, or will learn the rationale for the other side.

The opposite is also possible. This process of learning and strengthening one’s ideas can happen both ways: between conservatives and liberals and between populists and globalists. People from all points on the political spectrum would reinforce or change their beliefs when there is intellectual diversity on campus. The reasons why intellectual diversity must be facilitated on campus are: First, that it helps one strengthen their own opinions and, second, that it helps one evolve their thoughts if their past conceptions of issues couldn’t be factually or rationally validated.

The third and final reason why intellectual diversity is needed on campus is that the nature of the University is to be centers of learning and a ‘marketplace’ of ideas. What sets a university apart from an ideological indoctrination center is the existence of dialectic on campus and intellectual diversity. To facilitate intellectual diversity, we must not only permit free speech and expression but also foster a culture of free speech and expression. We can achieve the former by just making some policies allowing free speech and expression. To accomplish the latter, the culture, we need to include intellectual diversity on campus, in our events and talks.

Diversity of thought is crucial for the intellectual nourishment of everyone, regardless of their political views. That is why Georgetown University in Qatar and student groups on campus must take steps to ensure ideological diversity on campus. We can do this in reasonably simple ways. The faculty selection committees can do this by making sure that when they select professors, they ensure that their selection criteria not only includes ethnic and religious diversity but ideological diversity as well. The student groups can improve intellectual diversity by making sure that when they organize events they select an ideologically diverse panel of speakers and participants. For example, if a student group hosts a panel discussion on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the panel should constitute various perspectives on the matter, including the Zionists’ perspective. If a student group hosts speakers with internationalist opinions, they should also bring those with populist ideas.