Don’t Pop the Bubble

Parrish September 11, 2018 on the campus of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA. (Photo by Emma Ricci-De Lucca ’21)

As an Early Decision applicant, I was determined to come to Swarthmore for many reasons, one of which is the diverse and liberal student body. Because of my previous experience in a right-wing, Republican high school, I view Swat as a sanctuary away from the xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, racist, and other hateful comments that my classmates have said to me or to others in the extremely toxic environment we grew up in. I often call my high school “an echo chamber of conservative ideas.” However, I often hear concerns regarding Swarthmore as “a liberal bubble” that has a lack of conservative voices, and therefore a lack of diversity in ideas. If Swarthmore is an echo chamber of liberal ideas, is it also a harmful environment to be in? Whether or not the Admissions Office would be able to admit students on the basis of political identity is beside the point. Everyone can still disagree with each other and create productive dialogues in this liberal bubble.

I disagree with the belief that Swarthmore has a lack of conservative voices since it implies that Swarthmore somehow should be looking for more right-leaning students. I highly doubt that the Admissions Office is looking for liberal or conservative people when viewing applicants’ profiles at all. Considering the application process, I believe that most of our applications do not have the ability to indicate our political leanings. After all, the last thing we want is an “affirmative action” for students based on their political identities. I believe Swarthmore students generally just happen to be left-leaning, which in turn brings in more liberal students.

As someone who applied to Swarthmore partly due to its liberal student body, I believe that the liberal bubble is beneficial, especially when we agree on hotly-contested, polarizing national issues. The proponents for more conservative voices on campus, in general, often believe that the uniformity of liberal students in Swat results in a lack of ideas and debates, failing to challenge Swatties in the critical thinking of their political views.

It is true that I often agree with other Swatties when it comes to political opinions. At the beginning of the year, my friends and I were hoping to collaborate on a “Swat Takes” piece together. We struggled for hours to find a topic that we disagreed on; eventually, the topic ended up being whether Swatties should work hard in the pass/fail semester. However, the political polarization today has made productive discussions and debates across parties nearly impossible outside of Swarthmore. I often find it unhealthy for me to be stirred up and angry over, what seems to me to be basic human rights. When I have to defend my stance on polarizing issues like LGBTQ+and reproductive rights, immigration, to name a few, I do have to think critically, but are there no better circumstances that lead to deliberate political discussions?

Despite the fact that we, as a “liberal” school, have a general consensus on most polarizing national issues, there are still varying degrees to our political stances. As the fossil fuel divestment in the past, the recent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaign, and other contentious issues have shown, we don’t necessarily agree on everything. Even when we agree on an issue, there are various point of views on a specific topic. Last week, Swarthmore Asian Organization hosted a discussion on affirmative action. While everyone in the room agreed that the implication of the recent lawsuit on Harvard’s admission was awful, we still had an informative and insightful discussion about some failures of affirmative action.

Despite that Swarthmore is a liberal bubble, it still can generate productive political dialogues. I also want to clarify that there are still healthy discussions between conservative and liberal students on campus — I have heard and participated in them. Regardless of political identities, all respectful opinions spoken in good nature should be welcome. I believe that we can all gain something from Swarthmore’s liberal bubble, even if it’s a criticism of our beliefs, as we are challenged to become better people.


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