Oberlin Blogs


November 3, 2008

Max Strasser ’09

While I was reading my free New York Times this morning (just this year we started getting the New York Times for free at Oberlin and I'm loving it) I came across this story that raised a few questions in my mind about Oberlin.

The gist of the Times piece, in case you don't feel like reading it, is this: Even though a lot of right-wing types have been saying for a long time that liberalism among college and university faculty forces liberalism on students, new studies find that it's just not true.

As a college student, one of those anonymous characters who are interviewed for studies but not quoted in New York Times articles, I feel like I have an imperative to voice my opinion on this matter.

Of course our professors don't dictate our political opinions! What kind of morons do you take us for? Most of the Oberlin students I know grew up in liberal families and our liberal values are deeply instilled, not merely pasted on by liberal faculty.

I'm half kidding when I write that, but the more important point is this: This school is, for the most part, full of intelligent, thoughtful, and critical students whose minds are not exactly ripe for indoctrination.

Last week I attended a lecture series about the events in France surrounding the rebellion May of 1968. One of the lecturers, a professor at NYU who visited Oberlin just for the lecture, was Kristen Ross, a brilliant academic, but clearly a very committed Marxist. In what I found to be one of the low points of the entire lecture series she told us that the contemporary financial crisis made her "optimistic" about the future (or lack thereof) of the capitalist system.

I'm not a conservative, not by any stretch of the imagination, but Ross's comment had me fuming like some sort of Front Page magazine neo-con. Who the hell is this comparative literature professor to spout her theories about global economics? What kind of comfort and privilege-a job security found few places other than the Ivory Tower-allow her to hold a position like that? I was annoyed.

But when I left the lecture that night I talked to a few of my classmates. Had they been swayed by Ross's argument? Were the convinced that a workers' revolution was imminent, the best solutions to today's economic problems? No. Of course not. A few were just as annoyed as I was (though to be fair I'm easy to rile up) and a few just brushed off her comments. My friends and I are not going to stop volunteering for Barack Obama just because some literature professor doesn't believe in the American democratic or capitalist systems.

I think this experience I had just last week illustrates perfectly the validity of the studies reported on in the New York Times' article. And this is coming from a school that people usually consider a true bastion of liberal indoctrination.

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