The Politics of Politics or Why schools are not the place for campaigns

Yesterday my alma mater held a political rally. A big name political candidate came and spoke. The whole event was promoted to the community before it happened. It was very well attended and received significant coverage from many news sources including CNN, and it was widely publicized afterwards.

Right off the bat I have problems with this. Not the least of these, and maybe the part my wife is most angry about, is that we are supposed to be an educational institution. An institute that is open to new ideas and promotes the respectful discussion of hard topics where all sides should at least be carefully considered, if not represented in some capacity. However, in hosting a political candidate from one party without reaching out and trying to draw in candidates that may represent any other parties or points of view, the school as an institution appears to endorse this one candidate over other candidates or parties. Even if they claim that hosting the event is not an endorsement it at least comes off as strongly biased toward one side over another. This is especially true when the school is run as part of an Evangelical Christian denomination and is therefore already seen as conservative school. It is even true when the school is more liberal than it’s evangelical counterparts in the area, and when as many as forty percent of its students may vote Democrat.

The consequence of all of this is that it makes many of those who are not in the majority (read Republican) position feel that they are not accepted or welcomed at the school. When my wife, who doesn’t vote but would probably settle in between the Democrats and the Green Party, heard that this rally was scheduled and immediately considered switching schools because she feels unwelcome. An this at a school where there are a significant number of democrats.

What frustrates me even more about this whole situation, however, is that the candidate who spoke is none other than Ron Paul. Now, I see nothing wrong with Libertarianism; I disagree with it, especially because the freedom it promotes through unregulated policies it allows big businesses who hold a lot of money and power to oppress the poor and weak with very few consequences. However, if you choose to give big business that kind of freedom the only thing I ask is that you don’t bail them out because they’re “too big to fail” they got themselves into the mess so they should have to deal with the consequences of their poor business decisions and risky practices.

What bothers me about hosting Ron Paul are two things: First, how his stance on Libertarian freedom affects race and segregation, and Second, how his policies affect student financial aid.

I’ll start with the second of these because it’s more obvious and easier to explain. As a Libertarian Ron Paul believes in small government and smaller budgets. Part of what he wants to cut is a significant portion of funding for education, including the entire Department of Education. Now the school he visited is a private university that charges upwards of $40,000 a year in tuition and fees and most students graduate with over $100,000 in debt. The policies of Ron Paul would hurt them even more, yet no one seems to notice.

Now to his ideas on race and segregation: Ron Paul holds personal liberty over human rights such a degree that he opposes the Civil Rights Law of 1964 which gave African-Americans and other minorities the same rights as Whites and overturned almost a century of Jim Crow laws oppressing Black Americans. Recently he has supported the rights of a white landlady to post a sign at a public pool in her apartment complex banning blacks from using the pool. Now the school he spoke at prides itself in in core values, one of which is being reconcilers. And part of doing so is working to root out racism from its community. Is it clear yet how these two things are at odds with one another? Yet there is a strong base of support for Ron Paul at this school, and no one questions whether he should be compared when we choose to host him at our school.

I’ve loved my time in college but the longer I’ve stayed around the more frustrated I’ve become with the bureaucracy and institutionalization of it and this is just one more vice to add to an ever growing list. I look forward to leaving soon.

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One Response to The Politics of Politics or Why schools are not the place for campaigns

  1. ezekieldeal says:

    Thanks for your thoughts here. It was a solid read. Although I’m not in favor of opening the door to politicians, I would have been in more favor it if more views were represented.

    My main concern is people attributing this event to the WHOLE Bethel community. As you mentioned Denika’s feeling of being un-welcomed. This is an understandable feeling. However, I feel like an equal or even majority of people who attend and work at Bethel would be frustrated with this event as well. The more I spoke with profs and certain people within campus ministries, the more I find ideas and ideals that don’t always match up with the donors and decisions makers of the institution. I have especially found this within the BTS department. Which may not be as liberal as some would like it. But for being the Bible/Theology department of a “Conservative Evangelical School” it’s way to the left from BGC standards (with few exceptions). Again, that doesn’t mean the school does not need to be held accountable. Nor does it mean students shouldn’t voice their opinion. I just get sad when people view Bethel with a singular viewpoint, instead of realizing how far they have come. Obviously the job isn’t done and people shouldn’t get lazy on this issue. But every once in a while I need to remind myself of the good in order to better offer a critique.

    To clarify I don’t think you were saying anything negative. Nor is this really a rebuttal to anything you said. They are just some thoughts that have been in my head based off conversations with students who think Bethel is nothing positive at all. Those thoughts are solely based on one or two happenings without taking into account other things as well. Again, critique away when needed. But it’s not an evil place out to get everyone who disagrees slightly with them. If that was the case a good majority of the BTS department would be getting kicked out. Again, this is just some reflection of stuff I’ve been struggling through.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to more posts.

    Shalom.

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