By Esther Zuckerman
Hannah Moody ’08, the co-organizer of political awareness week, confirmed a rumor at the senior class meeting Feb. 7.
She told the class she knows a lot of people think the campus is liberal, and the results of the mock primary backed that statement up.
When students voted for presidential nominees during the mock primary Feb. 5, something seemed a little unbalanced: 81.5 percent of students chose a Democratic nominee while only 18.5 percent chose a Republican.
And this seems to be the status quo in campus mock elections. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore received 66.3 percent of the vote, while Republican George Bush received only 19.7 percent, and in 2004 Democrat John Kerry received 68.3 percent and Bush only 23.5 percent. History teacher David Waterhouse, who teaches AP U.S. Government and Politics, said he does see a liberal bias among students and teachers.
”California’s got a liberal bias, traditionally the Jewish vote has tended to be liberal and Harvard-Westlake has got a very high percentage of Jewish kids,” he said. “Young people are slightly more liberal than older people too, so you put all of those together and you have a fairly liberal school.”
Kristin Cole ’08, who considers herself a conservative, said she is conscious of being in a minority.
“It’s actually kind of fun to be in the minority,” she said. “People listen to you more.”
Cole said she likes to explain her points of view to her liberal friends.
“Sometimes you’ll get the nod,” she said. “And they are like, ‘Wait, I shouldn’t be nodding, but I kind of agree.”
Max Eliot ’09, who portrayed now defunct presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at the school’s mock debate, values his discussions with classmates and teachers.
“It isn’t like people are saying, ‘Oh, you are stupid because you are a conservative,’ “ he said.
Spencer Friedman ‘09, a conservative who played former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in the mock debate, said he feels that many other students base their political beliefs on their friends’ views rather than their own. He said that “it’s kind of annoying sometimes.”
Having a small number of conservatives also affects liberals, co-organizer of political awareness week Alex Fujinaka ’08 noted.
“Liberals, myself included, become lazy in our beliefs and do not question them,” he said. “I do think it’s unfortunate that we don’t have as many conservatives at our school because I think it’s healthy for liberals and conservatives to discuss and sometimes fight over issues.”
Moody and Fujinaka tried to be conscious of the liberal bias when organizing political awareness week. Moody said that they turned away people who wanted to have booths rallying for Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s campaign because they had no one from the other side.
Friedman was surprised there were even as many Republican votes as there were.
“I think a lot of those were joke votes,” he said.
Fujinaka, Moody and Cole are all in the same Government class taught by Waterhouse.
“Honestly I feel bad,” Moody said. “Kristin’s the only Republican. I tease Kristin all the time, obviously in a joking way.”
Cole said that sometimes she does feel singled out.
“There are times when I feel like there are all eyes on me when in the past some conservative screwed up,” she said.
While she feels comfortable sharing her views in Waterhouse’s class, Cole said that other teachers can be more hostile.
“There are certain teachers where I know I should just shut my mouth and not say anything,” Cole said. “For the sake of my grades first semester I was willing. There are definitely a lot of teachers who are very liberal who don’t want to hear your conservative views.”
Friedman, the head of the middle school Young Republicans group in ninth grade, said that he encountered more biased teachers at the Middle School, expecially in his seventh grade Civics class.
Upper School Dean Beth Slattery said that she feels many of the faculty assume that their colleagues are liberal.
“We would be surprised that there are people who don’t agree with us,” she said.
Fujinaka plans to revive a liberal group once a presidential nominee is chosen, since the Young Leftists faded out after the beginning of the year due to the withdrawal of their student leader. Math teacher and Technology Center Director Christopher Gragg and visual arts teacher Nancy Popp will be the faculty advisers. Gragg will “bet” a conservative group will emerge.
Gragg attributes the lack of any groups on campus to the off year for elections.
Friedman said he would be interested in heading a conservative group, but Eliot isn’t so sure.
“I don’t think there is a need for all five of us to organize,” he said.
Moody said that she thinks a lot of her peers are still figuring out their political beliefs. When she and Fujinaka registered people to vote, she said most people registered “decline to state.”