Political Atmosphere, It’s a little too thin in Denver.

Posted on July 21, 2011 by


Political Atmosphere

There comes a time when a political poll can make a point better than words.

The impetus to the creation of my poll began when I seemed to notice, in the majority of my five political science classes this semester a “chilling effect.”  I noticed that the group of students who had identified themselves as conservative early in the semester became more and more silent.  I wondered if they felt constrained by heated debates and comments made about the news media they may or may not watch.   F**#@!* Fox News was heard early on in our class and I personally was called a Nazi without once mentioning the principles of Mein Kampf or the genetic superiority of an Arian race.  I am profoundly, to this day, saddened and at a loss of words to speak to of the evil  I have learned of Nazi Germany and to be called a Nazi shook me up considerably.  It was not a casual condemnation of my beliefs it was a downright attack on my morality based on my proclivity.  I know with 100% certainty I have never called a classmate or Obama a socialist.  In a recent debate about economic strategies of the democratic and republican parties a student asked, “what about the economic impact,” of a particular Liberal agenda to which a person responded, “well where was your party on this issue two years ago?”  to the ohms and politically spanked comments of the majoritarian crowd this student shrunk down into their seat overwhelmed and… silenced.  My question:  Should this dialog be accepted as part and parcel of politics in general, or as a result of a very heated election season, are we seeing a defensiveness against any idea that threatens the liberal agenda?

My  hypothesis becomes either way this last question can be answered to the casuality of the situation, are our college students around the nation being exposed to ethical and neutral political debate at our university or are they silenced if they do not agree with the majoritarian agenda put forth by both the students and the professors.

Before I began my research I spoke privately with several student and all expressed discomfort from the heated political debates that marginalized a certain non-majoritarian group and some even said they purposefully write and express a more liberal agenda to insure they were accepted and received an acceptable grade.  Now whether there is any validity to their fear is open for debate but what is not is the “chilling effect” that is occurring in our college classrooms.

Although the poll did not reach as large an audience as I would have liked here are some of the results:

Count of freedom of speech Column Labels
Row Labels 0 Conservative Liberal Neutral Grand Total
Cannot speak without fear of Discrimination 16.67% 66.67% 16.67% 0.00% 100.00%
Can Speak without fear of Discrimnation 2.63% 5.26% 60.53% 28.95% 100.00%
Grand Total 4.44% 13.33% 53.33% 26.67% 100.00%

From this data we can see that almost 67% of Conservatives in five political science classes at the University of Colorado at Denver feel they cannot speak their political thoughts without the fear of discrimination while 5.26% felt they could speak without fear.  Approximately 61% of Liberal students feel they can speak without fear of discrimination and 16.67% said they feared discrimination.

Count of honest debate Column Labels
Row Labels 0 Conservation Liberal Neutral Grand Total
No opportunity for Honest Debate in political Science classes 20.00% 60.00% 0.00% 0.00% 100.00%
Is Opportunity for Honest Debate 2.56% 7.69% 58.97% 30.77% 100.00%
Grand Total 4.44% 13.33% 53.33% 26.67% 100.00%

In the control question the conservatives remained more consistent by saying they did not think the opportunity exists to have honest political debate in political sciences classes while almost 60% of liberals thought there was an opportunity for honest political debate.  Even more interesting is the margin.  Not one Liberal leaning student felt no opportunity for honest political debate exists (they obviously can’t see what the majority of conservatives are seeing) while almost 8% of conservatives felt the honest political debate does exists in their classes.  So Liberals felt 100% sure honest debate happens while only 8% of conservatives agreed.  This would indicate some wort of disconnect.


A not so silent Liberal majority exists at UC Denver and the non-majority Conservatives feel silenced and most likely quite frustrated.

In Lucy McGuffey’s Law, Politics and Justice, the class was asked to read Ronald Dworkin’s 2006 Is Democracy Possible Here?  Dworkin professes to be very liberal or very strong shades of blue, but also says “ The Liberalism I offer is what, in my view, Liberalism means and requires now.”  (Dworkin, 2006-pg 7)  He goes on to say  the split between Conservative viewpoints and Liberal viewpoints is inevitable and that they lack of real meaningful arguments between the two is understandable but, “if the division between the two cultures is not just deep but bottomless-then there is no common ground to be found and no genuine argument to be had.  Politics can be only the kind of war it has become.  Many students of our politics think that that is our situation, and they may be right.  But that would be alarming and tragic.  Democracy can be healthy with no serious political argument if there is nevertheless a broad consensus about what is to be done.  It can be healthy even if there is no consensus if it does have a culture of argument.  But it cannot remain healthy with deep and bitter divisions and no real argument, because it then becomes only a tyranny of numbers.”(Dworkin, 2006-pg6)

My (expletive) sentiments exactly!!!

Consider this…Is this honest debate or outright bigotry.

Is this the result of such great social divides in our country?

Thank you to all in our political science department at UC Denver who took the time to listen to my idea for a poll measuring the degree to which students feel comfortable expressing themselves in their classes and the students who graciously took the time to answer the questions.

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