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Simple but valid question: "so what really defines a school as liberal vs conservative?"

USdncrUSSRsoulUSdncrUSSRsoul Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
So your student begins the task of listing potential colleges for visits. They begin their due diligence by visiting websites, obtaining brochures, visiting with academic advisors and attending colleges visits on their HS campus. Then they ask, "so what really defines them as LAC vs Conservative and what are examples of colleges that define this - the different cultures on these campuses. I could be there for four years." A lifetime in a young adults eyes I suppose. Campus visits are hit and miss so dependent on the time of year, tour guide and yes, possibly the weather.

What are the top 25 universities that you would identify and why? Examples would be greatly appreciated.
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Replies to: Simple but valid question: "so what really defines a school as liberal vs conservative?"

  • donnaleighgdonnaleighg Registered User Posts: 1,156 Senior Member
    "What really defines them as LAC vs Conservative" makes no sense. LAC = Liberal Arts College which has nothing to do with politics.

    And I'm not sure of the sudden injection of top 25 universities. What are your filtering criteria? What are you looking for?

    As to getting a feel for the vibe of a place, you can read the campus paper online (along with the comments), find out about various campus groups and their agendas, etc.

    And while many/most colleges tend to lean left (either mildly or hard), the majority of students even in the most lefty schools are not particularly politically active. It's the noisy ones who end up in the news.
  • USdncrUSSRsoulUSdncrUSSRsoul Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    edited October 12
    Apologies,...should read just liberal there,..

    but that also can also affect a student's overall perception.
  • USdncrUSSRsoulUSdncrUSSRsoul Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    edited October 12
    Trying to help answer the question that is heard at many campus events during their city tours. They identify themselves as being "more liberal" or "more conservative." Why? Is it their curriculum? Is it the campus vibe? Is it the demographics of the student population.

    The question to list schools provides examples,..a guide. Knowing that it is a person's perception but its a starting point.
  • tutumom2001tutumom2001 Registered User Posts: 621 Member
    A Google search will provide various websites that have attempted their own lists as to what colleges are the most liberal vs. the most conservative, and they should give you their methodology. Personally, I would say it would be the demographics of the student population and their worldviews. I would also say that this might be more of a factor in smaller schools because in large schools you will most likely find your people regardless.
  • donnaleighgdonnaleighg Registered User Posts: 1,156 Senior Member
    edited October 12
    "more liberal" or "more conservative" would almost never be the curriculum. It would be the demographics (not racial/ethnic, but just the student population that comes there, so I guess somewhat self-reinforcing at least in the short run). Some schools, like my alma mater Swarthmore (with a Quaker tradition) emphasizes peace, racial justice (many Quakers were abolitionists) and consensus, so that certainly feeds into a more left-leaning vibe. Other schools may be more conservative (at least on certain issues) due to a Catholic or other religious affiliation.
  • USdncrUSSRsoulUSdncrUSSRsoul Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    It appears it is safe to say schools like your Alma Mater are easier to identify. But what about the larger universities?
    Yes, they will have a mix of demographics but doesn't the institution usually tend to lean one way or another on their campus?
  • wisteria100wisteria100 Registered User Posts: 3,051 Senior Member
    We were at an info session where a student speaker was talking about politics and the election and had very liberal leanings on the subject. A parent asked if conservative views would feel unwelcome and she responded by saying well we are a liberal arts school. The admissions guy looked uncomfortable and tried to interject as obviously a liberal arts school doesn't have to equate to liberal. We ended up liking the school so didn't hold it against them, but found her comment to be uninformed.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 32,830 Senior Member
    You will find people from all over the political spectrum at literally almost every school.
  • Ohiodad51Ohiodad51 Registered User Posts: 2,245 Senior Member
    I think it is an inarguable fact that, with the obvious counter examples of some religious colleges and military academies, most colleges lean left to one degree or another relative to the larger population. I think the real question is how politically active is an individual campus community &/or the faculty, and how does that activism effect the day to day for students not interested in such things.

    With that idea in mind, I found it enlightening to take a gander at the message boards/walls in various communal spaces. Another bit of insight into a college's political culture can sometimes be found in the student newspapers. Of course, for some schools there are a number of published reports about protests, etc. All of these things should go in the hopper when trying to figure out the appropriate fit.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,555 Senior Member
    Yes, they will have a mix of demographics but doesn't the institution usually tend to lean one way or another on their campus?

    Most younger adults tend to lean left relative to the general adult population, so it is not surprising that college students generally lean left. However, there can be considerable variation within a given college, and between student bodies at different colleges.
  • circuitridercircuitrider Registered User Posts: 2,474 Senior Member
    It's mostly demographically driven, IMHO. Look for schools in border states that would typically funnel students, in more or less equal numbers, from both the south and the north. Think, Vanderbilt. Duke, Sewanee (University of the South), UVA, Davidson, and WUSTL, if you specifically want colleges that play it down the middle politically. Go a little further south and the mix gets more conservative, a little more north and the choices are more liberal. YMMV.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,555 Senior Member
    However, note that different aspects of political viewpoints may not always move right or left in sync with each other as one moves among different regions or other population demographics.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,463 Super Moderator
    edited October 12
    Think, Vanderbilt. Duke, Sewanee (University of the South), UVA, Davidson, and WUSTL, if you specifically want colleges that play it down the middle politically.
    Except perhaps Sewanee, all of those at least lean left, and some are decidedly liberal. (Duke has long been one of David Horowitz's favorite bête noires. The university's prominent Marxist studies program hasn't endeared it to the right, among many other aspects of the university.) Wake is the only prominent southern university that I'd consider politically moderate.

    ucbalumnus wrote:
    However, there can be considerable variation within a given college
    Expanding a bit on this, graduate students and faculty can be very liberal even at universities with comparatively conservative undergraduate student bodies, so it is not easy to classify a university as uniformly "liberal" or "conservative." Moreover, it's common for students and faculty in some disciplines (i.e. the humanities and social sciences) to be more vocal politically than those in more politically apathetic fields like STEM.
  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    As proven with posts here, political leanings are in the eye of the beholder. We all draw our lines differently.
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