Verbum Ultimum: A Variety of Viewpoints

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 11/1/12 11:00pm

Dartmouth students are fortunate to have the opportunity to not only profoundly influence the coming election, but also to engage with each other about differing political views. While the overall Dartmouth community may swing to the left, the results of our recent poll of the student body illustrate that diverse views permeate this campus, and those voting Republican this year represent a substantial minority ("Poll finds students favor Obama," Nov. 2). Dartmouth's student body also includes a sizeable number of third-party supporters, adding another dimension of political diversity to the campus community.

Our poll found that of the 938 respondents, 65.5 percent supported President Barack Obama and 30.6 percent supported former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., with a margin of error of 3 percent. These numbers stayed relatively consistent along class lines, but our poll found that women support Obama by a higher margin than men. Despite this seemingly large divide, the results indicate that considerable portions of campus support different candidates in this year's election.

Given this diversity of political views on campus and the importance of the upcoming election, we are surprised by the relative quiet of the majority of students in the days leading up to Nov. 6. It appears that political engagement has been confined to a relatively small sector of campus, or at least has not been as public as we might expect, especially considering the relatively wide range of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographical backgrounds represented at Dartmouth.

Political discourse on Dartmouth's campus often takes the form of small groups of students deciding to periodically put up a display of some kind designed to spark a visceral reaction in those of opposing viewpoints. One particularly prominent example of this is the Dartmouth Students Stand with Staff movement ("Students hold protests against labor practices," Oct. 30). Unfortunately, such visible displays of political protest rarely lead to productive discourse on substantive issues, but instead incite hostile reception and polarization. What our poll shows, however, is that there is no defined silent majority at Dartmouth. While some students may discuss political differences among friends, there seems to be a lack of public engagement and constructive argumentation within the broader College community regarding these issues. On both the level of individual conversation and the level of the broader campus discourse, political disagreement should not be met with reactionary rancor between dominant and submissive viewpoints but rather spirited debate on a level playing field.

We urge the broader student community to take their political involvement beyond liking Facebook statuses to actually having measured conversations about political issues. A diversity of thinking on campus should not confine political dialogue to hostile interactions but instead should create an opportunity for respectful discussions among disagreeing parties that actually encourage reflection on these issues.