‘Liberal views are overly represented:’ Quinnipiac students discuss their educational setting

Chatwan Mongkol, Associate News Editor

Many students believe Quinnipiac University is not diverse when it comes to the representation of different political ideologies, and they believe it has a direct impact on their learning environment.

“When a single political viewpoint is highly dominant and sometimes even suppresses others, diversity of thought suffers,” said Kevin Laieta, a sophomore accounting major. “Diversity of thought matters more than any other form and elevates the learning experience by exposing students to different perspectives.”

Connor Lawless

Students said the majority of the Quinnipiac community are leaning toward liberalism.

American Enterprise Institute reported that previous studies about political compositions and campus climate found that liberal and moderate professors on college campuses have always outnumbered their conservative counterparts. This is also the case for Quinnipiac, as public political contribution information suggests.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) revealed that Quinnipiac employees donated $102,887 to different political committees and campaigns during the 2020 election cycle (January 2019 to December 2020), the highest since at least 1994. The CRP also showed that 95.57% of those political contributions went to the Democratic Party.

When President Joe Biden was a candidate, he received $22,362 from Quinnipiac employees, the highest among all other recipients. In 2020, former President Donald Trump received only $592.

Political science professor Scott McLean said Republicans received fewer donations because there were few strong Republican congressional and state legislative candidates in local districts. He also said that Trump’s fundraising was far behind the Democrats and Biden.

“Trump interestingly used campaign strategies that required few expensive media buys, and  Trump also did not invest much money into state campaign offices,” McLean said.

Besides presidential candidates, 68 candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Lindsey Graham also received some donations in the previous election cycle.

The political contribution trend of Quinnipiac employees has leaned toward the Democrats since at least 1994. In 2000, 2004 and 2014, 100% of donations went to the Democrats.

The total amount of contributions soared in 2020. It was a 133.83% increase from the 2016 election cycle (January 2015 to December 2016). McLean said it was not surprising as the total fundraising amount across the country in 2020 has also gone up since 2016.

The CRP found that candidates raised around $1.5 billion in the 2016 election cycle and around $3.9 billion in 2020.

According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), McLean also contributed $320 last year to the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“The stakes were much higher in this election,” McLean said. “There were a lot of candidates raising money in the Democratic nomination process, and candidates becoming more effective at using the internet to raise more money with small (donations).”

He also said that most Quinnipiac employees fit the national profile of Biden’s supporters — college-educated, middle-class and likely to live in suburban areas.

The CRP based its data on the contributions of $200 or more from individuals to political candidates and parties that were reported to the FEC.

On the FEC database, there were over 3,800 entries with over 250 unique contributors between 2019-20 under Quinnipiac filtered as the employer’s name. Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said 250 employees only represent 20% of the university’s faculty and staff.

“Political contributions by employees are purely personal decisions,” Morgan said. “The university does not get involved in any employee political activities and does not endorse specific political parties or candidates.”

Morgan said the university wants all groups to feel fully welcome to be a part of its mission to be inclusive of the broad spectrum of political viewpoints.

According to the FEC, one of the biggest donors was the law school’s Center on Dispute Resolution Co-Director Charles Pillsbury who donated over $30,000 from 2019-20. He donated to different Democratic presidential candidates including Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

The person who made the largest single donation in 2020, according to the FEC, was law professor Alexander Meiklejohn. He donated $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Some of the donations to the Republican Party include over $2,300 from Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Todd Sloan, over $1,500 from School of Medicine Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Relationships Richard Stahl and over $450 from Associate Vice President for Information Services Janice Wachtarz, according to the FEC.

Even though the trend strongly suggests that voters with higher education were more supportive of the Democratic Party, McLean said it should not be concluded that they are liberals. 

He said only a minority of college-educated voters identify themselves as liberals while the majority of them identify themselves as moderates.

With most educators on campus appearing to lean left, students with different viewpoints have found themselves in a number of uncomfortable situations.

First-year nursing major Asia Mercier said professors see students in a different way when they disagree.

“Liberal views are overly represented,” Mercier said. “And if you have conservative views, professors will put you down or constantly question you when they don’t to others who have liberal views.”

Laieta said a class turns into an echo chamber when a professor shares their own political opinions, and students in disagreement like him are afraid of being “ostracized, ridiculed or receiving bad grades” if they express their thoughts. One of Laieta’s experiences was from a Blackboard discussion thread.

“When I see that the topic is a leading question or that my peers are all in political agreement, I again feel pressured to say something that conflicts with my personal values or opinions to keep my grades up,” Laieta said. “I always try my best to stay politically neutral in every class, no matter how political the discussion becomes.”

Not only current students, but class of 2014 English graduate Emily Vincent said her political views were underrepresented during her college days.

“I was afraid to share my opinion for (fear of) being (shut) down or forced to try and believe something else because people can’t always handle someone who thinks differently than they do,” Vincent said.

Vincent had an experience being asked to state her political opinions in a political science class. She said the professor singled her out as her views were a minority and asked for her opinions for the entire semester.

“It was the worst class ever taken at QU,” Vincent said.

That was the only class Vincent got a D during her time at Quinnipiac. She said she always thought that it was because her opinions did not match her professor’s.

Sociology professor Keith Kerr said students should inform the department chair and begin the grade appeal process if there is evidence that a faculty member is penalizing a student because of the student’s political beliefs.

While Kerr said it is hard for someone to be the contrarian, he said the point of getting a university degree is to hear different opinions and ideas. He posed a question about whether or not it is a good idea to tell professors who are experts on their field not to share their opinions.

“People act like there are revolutionaries stuffed to the rafters, when the truth of the matter is that most professors are simply hardworking people trying diligently to solve the problems that their area focuses on,” Kerr said.

Kerr believes that the critical thinking extended learning opportunities would see improvements if there are more revolutionaries at Quinnipiac.

Although much evidence suggests that the college’s population is leaning to the left, Inside Higher Ed also reported that conservative counterparts are free of indoctrination. 

McLean said the idea of professors having influence over politics of their students is “highly exaggerated.”

He explained like Kerr said that students pay to hear instructor’s opinions on their field of expertise, in which those opinions sometimes have social implications. He said it depended on people who hear them to decide if those expert opinions are political, and they have the right to disagree.

“If professors really had influence over their students’ ideas and behavior, you would see a lot  more students studying harder, partying less, doing the reading for the class and following the course syllabus,” McLean said. “And in politics, if professors were so influential, you would see a higher percentage of college students voting in elections, which is not the case.”