Saying she feels overwhelmed and judged in a community that is predominantly liberal, a sophomore girl, who identifies as conservative, is attempting to bring a conservative guest speaker to the school.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous because she was uncomfortable publicizing her political views, said hosting a conservative speaker would be a logical addition to the school’s agenda for diversity, equity and inclusivity.
“I believe that a school should be relatively apolitical or at least bipartisan, and with the school doing things like giving community service to those who attended the Women’s March, I think that they made their motives and who they supported in the election very clear,” the student said.
The student also said recent speakers such as Democratic CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers motivated her to push for a conservative speaker. She referenced recent controversies, such as Milo Yiannoupolis planning to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, as inspiration.
“I think that once [the school] involves themselves by bringing in people like Bakari Sellers, they then have an obligation to tell both sides of the story in a non-biased way,” the student said.
She said a recent exchange in the sophomore class Facebook group made this eagerness to express differing political opinions more evident. One sophomore posted to encourage her classmates to buy treats at a bake sale raising awareness for the gender pay gap.
“The Facebook group got so out of hand, but it showed me that people want to debate and also people don’t know how, because they’ve never been able to in a school setting,” the student said.
History teacher Dror Yaron agreed to help the student try to achieve her goal. He said bringing in a speaker will be difficult because the topic of diversity is a sensitive one.
“If you don’t know your opponent’s arguments and world views even better than your own, then you certainly don’t understand your own, and I think that’s how the school could benefit,” Yaron said.”
Izzy Reiff ’18, who identifies as an independent, said she is excited at the prospect of a conservative speaker.
“I feel like a lot of students here have not been exposed to viewpoints other than their own in a context where the different viewpoint is being taken seriously and is not only used as the punchline of a joke,” Reiff said.
President Rick Commons agreed that after more leftist speakers such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88, it is reasonable for students to ask for a conservative speaker.
“I worry a little bit about extremism, or views contrary to the school’s values on either side being given a platform by the school,” Commons said. “But, differing views on all sides of the spectrum seems to me to be a responsible thing for us to go after.”
Out of 225 students polled, 66 percent said they identify as liberal, 95 percent said they thought past speakers have been primarily liberal and 86 percent said they would appreciate the opportunity to hear a speaker with a viewpoint opposing those of past speakers.
Asher Low ’17 who identifies as liberal, said he would welcome a speaker with a conservative perspective.
“As one of the biggest left-wingers on campus, I believe totally in diversity of ideas and freedom of speech,” Low said. “To only have speakers from one political side, whether it’s my side of not, ruins the diversity that Harvard-Westlake speaks of in its mission statement. Both liberals and conservatives should be fighting to bring in more conservative speakers because it enriches our political discourse.”