Letter: Carleton’s political spectrum is warped

I first heard about the political spectrum during grade 10 Civics class. We learned that the Conservative party was on the right, the Liberals on the left, and the NDP even further to the left. The teacher explained the various policies that members of the right and left believed in, with no right or wrong side to be on.

Carleton students would do well to remember this in 2017. Being a conservative doesn’t make you wrong, or a terrible person. I’m a small “l” liberal. I’m well left of centre on social policies, but in certain economic situations I’m closer to centre. Yet if you put me on the political spectrum of Carleton, I’d likely be considered a conservative.

A hyper-liberal environment has emerged on our campus—and Canadian universities in general—that vilifies any moderately conservative ideas. The views of the average Carleton student are so far to the left, that being near the center of the political spectrum makes you appear conservative.

Compounding this problem is a lack of willingness to engage in political debate that has emerged on the left. Universities have always been places where political arguments and informed debates could take place. Now, instead of debating or trying to understand right-wing ideas, they are shouted down and ignored so that it becomes difficult to express them at all. This stifling of debate and the lack of opposing ideas present on campus is detrimental to the overall health of the university. If you never explain your point of view, you lose the chance to develop a deeper understanding of the subject. Engaging in a debate with the other side forces you to develop counterpoints and strengthen your argument, while expanding your knowledge of the issue.

It’s difficult to get this experience at Carleton, because to express conservative or more centre views is akin to a crime. There’s no room for nuance. The far left isn’t willing to hear anything the other side has to say. Take the women’s-only gym hour for example. Some male students were against it not because of anti-feminist beliefs, but simply because the gym is small and crowded, and there just isn’t the room or time available to stop men from going there, especially when all students’ tuition covers it. But this valid point was misconstrued as being misogynist, and only one side of the conversation was heard.

Perhaps the most pressing problem with this stifling of conservative opinions is that it’s a terrible way of getting more people to think liberally. The recent shutdown of Ezra Levant’s speaking engagement at the University of Toronto (U of T) is a great example. The actions of left-wing protesters created a situation campus security no longer considered safe, so the event was cancelled. One of the protesters called it anti-platforming, a liberal strategy used to take away the speaking platforms of people they think are promoting hate speech. Personally, I think Ezra Levant is an idiot. But the speech he was giving was about taxes and clearly a lot of people agree with him, or else he wouldn’t have a growing media company and a speaking engagement at U of T.

The crux of the issue is the lack of interest in having a discussion, or trying to understand a right-wing point of view. You’ll never come to a compromise or get conservatives to understand and possibly accept liberal thinking if you don’t allow them to speak. You also rob yourself of the chance to understand the world a little bit better, because—news flash—sometimes conservatives are right. I’ve learned just as much from conversations with conservative friends as I have from my liberal friends, even if I disagree with a lot of what my conservative friends say. If more liberals gave conservatives a chance, then we might all get along a little bit better.

– Photo by Justin Samanski-Langille