By Nick Sabatini
High-level academia is occasionally criticized for having liberal biases. In order to address this topic, Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) held a “Wokeshop” on Feb. 19. This event was part of IME’s “Wokeshop” series, designed to spark reflection and critical thinking among people from different backgrounds. The presentation was given by IME Peer Educator Emma Franco ’20 and IME Student Life Intern Elvira Ruan ’18.
“This was one of the many Wokeshops we had thought about last semester,” Franco said. “We thought it was a relevant topic to talk about that wasn’t concerning social justice, but more about how we communicate with the other, and how we bridge differences because of the current political climate. (It’s about) understanding how to be better at communicating with others across political lines.”
The Wokeshop focused on two New York Times articles by Nicholas Kristof: “The Liberal Blind Spot” and “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.” These articles argue that conservative opinions are not valued in academia.
“We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservative.” Kristoff said in “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.”
“Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.”
According to Kristoff, only 2 percent of English professors were Republican at the time of writing, but the article did not specify where this figure came from.
During the Wokeshop, many students shared their political ideologies and personal stories.
“It’s more about creating discussion,” Ruan said. “We are student educators. We don’t have all the answers. It’s more about having people think about these things and how to communicate with others. Even having the posters with liberal biases (promoting the Wokeshop), people thought, ‘Oh, what are my biases?’”
Franco and Ruan said this Wokeshop was not intended as a call for action but to spread awareness.
“As peer educators, it’s more about giving people the tools so that they, in their interaction within our community and outside our community, can be better advocates,” Franco said.
IME Wokeshops give both the LC community and the presenters an opportunity to learn.
“For me, these Wokeshops are also a learning opportunity for me as well, because we talk about what we think about the Wokeshops,” Ruan said. “We talk about what we think is important. For me, it’s a space to hear other people’s voices.”
Abraham Weill ’18 attended the Wokeshop. He said it allowed him to get to know students in a different way and that he appreciated being in a place where students can express their opinions without being judged.
“I think at liberal arts colleges, people can feel crowded out,” Weill said. “I think it is always important to question your own beliefs and hear from other people, especially through a service like IME. It’s awesome because, as a white liberal student, I don’t get to talk to people that aren’t like me. Being able to come to events like this where we can hear differences of opinion and talk to people that are different from us is always good. I think it serves a vital role in our community and I wish more people came.”
While Weill said that IME is a helpful resource, he believes more students should take advantage of it.
“I think the IME department in Templeton is a completely underutilized service,” Weill said. “People need to know about it. People need to come to it. It’s awesome and their only job on campus is to help students.”
Franco said she feels that individual biases make up the bias of a community. She said that although LC is known for being liberal, it is important to look at other perspectives within the community.
“One of the reasons why we do these Wokeshops is to have these discussions in our community, and if people could come and take a chance at being part of the discussion, that would be amazing because I feel that it is always a learning process for us,” Franco said. “When we listen to other people, we get to see these perspectives.”
This Wokeshop was followed by Communicating Across Differences, which was held on Feb. 26. The next Wokeshop will be on March 12 and will explore the topic of inclusive leadership.