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Where’s the debate?

Tyler Bowen | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Each year, statistics come out which show that the incoming Notre Dame freshman class is one of the best in the country. In addition, administration, faculty members and ND alumni constantly boast about the academic prowess of the student body, and with good reason. However, I believe this campus is still lacking in one critical academic area: the development of a politically literate community characterized by a high spirit of activism and by rational, intelligent discourse about the most important political issues. In short, no proper political forum exists on this campus.

This is not to say that all Notre Dame students are not politically or socially involved. Activist, liberal and tangentially political groups are growing on campus, like College Democrats, Progressive Student Alliance and the newly-formed LGBTQ group, PrismND. In addition, College Republicans, with which College Democrats actually shares friendly bipartisan relations, is one of the largest student groups on campus. So, there are clearly a large number of students who are actively involved in political and social causes, and this body is also very bipartisan and moderate.

If this is the case, then why is the intellectual political community on campus also not as robust? It seems incongruous to think that such an intelligent student body would not also have a strong arena for activism and intellectual debate when it comes to political issues. There are two reasons for this. First, the political culture is one-sidedly conservative at Notre Dame. Second, liberally-minded students are hesitant to speak their minds in this conservative environment. So long as conservative opinions and values are voiced strongly and the liberal retorts remain weak, then a proper intellectual discourse about political issues can never truly emerge.
I believe there is a large, (latent) liberal population on campus, as indicated by the growing number of politically liberal and activist student groups. It is time that these students and groups stop believing that they must tacitly consent to the conservative norm on campus. It is also time the conservative groups on campus and conservatively-minded students recognized the legitimacy of liberal opinions and values. I understand if you do not agree with these values, but I do not understand the perpetuation of a narrow-minded culture where they are brushed aside.

Once liberals start to speak out more strongly and conservatives start to give greater respect to liberal values on campus, a proper political forum can emerge. We can start to have discussions that are not defined by heated ad hominem arguments or dominated by one side’s opinion, but rational, intellectual discourse that welcomes all opinions and truly engages with the important political issues of the day. From there, the intelligent, active and politically literate community that we are fully capable of creating can begin to blossom.


Tyler Bowen
Stanford Hall
Sept. 11