At Stony Brook University, where over 17,000 undergraduate students attend what USA Today ranked as the ninth most diverse college in America, students with unpopular political perspectives feel they cannot openly voice their opinions.
Even the president of College Republicans feels the need to censor her views in academic settings.
Sara Adcock admits to having submitted assignments that aligned with her professors’ beliefs rather than her own out of concern for her grades.
“Regretfully, earlier on, there’s been one or two occasions where I’ve handed in papers I wrote that were in opposition to my personal political beliefs out of worry I wouldn’t receive an adequate grade,” Adcock, a junior health sciences major, said. “Being a student at Stony Brook guarantees being almost explicitly taught and exposed to progressive values.”
According to a 2017 study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, 48.3% of college professors across America identify as politically liberal.
In the same study, the 2017 incoming class of college freshmen were surveyed about their political beliefs. These results showed 35.5% of students aligned themselves with liberal or far-left ideology, while 22.2% considered themselves conservative or far right.
When it comes to Stony Brook faculty, although there is no data documenting their political ideologies, employees of the university donated over $55,000 to left-leaning organizations in 2021.
Sowad Karim, president of College Democrats, has taken note of student political trends at Stony Brook.
“I would say that when it comes to political ideology on campus, it’s definitely on the liberal side of things,” Karim said. “There’s definitely a lot more Democrats registered on campus, and there’s certainly a lot more of a progressive kind of perspective.”
Karim theorized that Stony Brook’s STEM-heavy student population may play a role in the lack of political activity on campus. Karim explained that, from his perspective, the fewer number of students interested in careers in the public sector leads to less political involvement on campus.
But, there have still been a number of political events on campus. College Socialists President Amanda Basinger, a senior double majoring in applied math and statistics and economics, recalled a time when several clubs joined together in response to Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a right-wing political action group, coming to campus.
On Sept. 12, 2021, TPUSA, the New York Young Republican Club and the Long Island Loud Majority held a protest on Stony Brook’s campus after the State University of New York (SUNY) put a system-wide vaccination mandate on its campuses.
“All of us were kind of frightened by the movement of the far right and the dangerous national organization that TPUSA is,” Basinger said.
The Stony Brook College Democrats and the LGBT+ Alliance had a meeting with the head of clubs to express their concerns about TPUSA’s campus presence.
“They told us [that] we’re sorry to hear that, but we have to protect free speech,” Basinger said. “And so our plan of action then shifted to explaining to people what TPUSA does.”
Several counter-protesters appeared at the event, and one person who planned to attend the event said on social media that they would be armed in case of any “leftist counter protesters.”
The event highlighted political tensions on campus and sparked a petition to ban TPUSA from campus, which ultimately failed. The chapter was then approved as a legitimate campus organization, but now no longer appears on the SB Engaged platform, signifying it is most likely inactive or no longer has university approval.
Adcock expressed that she feels Stony Brook has liberal ideology extending beyond student-led organizations.
“I’ve experienced very little political diversity in the curriculum at Stony Brook,” Adcock wrote in an email to The Statesman. “I’ve taken many classes here that have left-leaning messages woven into the course material.”
A popular college ranking website even ranked Stony Brook as the No. 12 most liberal college in the country. Adcock agreed with this, pointing out that many conservative students on Stony Brook’s campus often feel silenced and ignored, based on her experiences.
She also expressed frustration with student organizations on campus, feeling that many of them are left-leaning. This includes the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), which Karim is the president of.
However, leaders of different Stony Brook political organizations agreed that students tend to treat each other with respect on campus when discussing differences in political beliefs.
C.J. Burgardt, secretary of the College Democrats, said that while students tend to act civil to each other on campus, it can be a different story in online spaces.
“I think it’s because it’s on an online platform, people are more confident, and calling out other people,” Burgardt said. “And this isn’t just for politics, just about things that happen on campus in general.”
Despite what happens online or in the classroom, Adcock advised students with minority views to not be afraid of having different opinions than their peers.
“When I was an incoming freshman at SBU, it was a bit daunting entering a university known for being so liberal,” Adcock said. “As I discovered for myself, there are many more like-minded people out there than you might initially think. Some of my closest and strongest friendships are those I’ve made by getting to know politically similar peers in College Republicans.”