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Pro­fessor of Soci­ology Peter Blum said that he some­times self-censors his political opinions at Hillsdale COllege for the sake of his teaching but not because he feels pres­sured to do so. Jordyn Pair | Col­legian

Pro­fessor of Soci­ology Peter Blum wore black the day after the November election, mourning the results. Now his lapel some­times sports a safety pin, an expression of sol­i­darity with those who may feel unsafe in Trump’s America. Nev­er­theless, Blum said he doesn’t align himself with any political party.

“Why should I?” he asked. “I’m not happy with any of the options in terms of me joining and saying I’m a member. There have been times I have felt more kinship with lib­er­tarians. There are times when I felt more kinship with Repub­licans. Recently, I’ve felt more kinship with Democrats.”

Uni­ver­sities across the country have created bias-response systems in which stu­dents report pro­fessors expressing prej­udice in relation to race, gender, sexual ori­en­tation, or political views. Although Hillsdale doesn’t have a bias-response system, Blum said he hasn’t felt pressure to self-censor on the largely con­ser­v­ative Hillsdale College campus anyway. He self-censors on his own to best teach stu­dents, he said.

“I do think Hillsdale does pretty well, as far as I’ve seen, at actually living up to its claim to have open dis­cussion,” Blum said. “I’m able to tell some of my friends that teach at other places — that would be con­sidered here to be very liberal places — that I think it really is the case that it is pos­sible to express somewhat liberal-leaning opinions here. I know of places where I probably would not feel nearly as free to express my opinions about some things.”

Blum said he occa­sionally watches what he says in class, however, adding that he thinks it’s better for stu­dents not to know his political views.

“It can be dis­tracting,” he said. “There are times when I talk about political issues in a way that I hold back from saying what I think, not so much because I’m afraid of doing so but because I think it’s better for teaching.”

Pro­fessor of English John Somerville, a reg­is­tered Repub­lican, said he also tries not to influence his stu­dents. To truly study lit­er­ature, he said, stu­dents must be open to new ideas.

“I want them to engage the lit­er­ature intel­li­gently, and I want to rep­resent the views of those writers as fairly as I can — that’s it,” Somerville said. “I’m not here to make them into little con­ser­v­a­tives.”

Somerville said stu­dents need exposure to dif­ferent per­spec­tives.

“I think a lot of stu­dents are in a bubble, absolutely,” he said.  “I’ve known stu­dents who come here with all their con­ser­v­ative cre­den­tials in order and never really were chal­lenged to the point where they needed to know how to defend their views. Then they left Hillsdale and found people of a dif­ferent dis­po­sition who were really smart, and they could not defend what they thought was true.”

Eval­u­ating opposing ideas is an integral part of edu­cation, he said.

“One of the oppor­tu­nities in a classroom is to at least engage with other ideas and examine your own views,” he said. “I think an edu­cation that takes us outside the bubble is the healthiest pos­sible edu­cation.”

Some of that exposure to dif­ferent ideas happens outside the classroom, and it’s here stu­dents may find trouble.

“I know there are stu­dents who censor them­selves because they feel they hold unac­ceptable views on campus and would get neg­ative reaction,” Blum said.

Hillsdale College Democrats Vice Pres­ident senior Christine Scanlan said she some­times doesn’t express her views.

“I don’t think anyone should have to censor them­selves in front of other stu­dents,” Scanlan said.  “But in some sit­u­a­tions, I hold my tongue on some things, because some battles aren’t worth fighting.”

Scanlan said she started college as a con­ser­v­ative Christian but began to change her mind sophomore year. She would like to have more diverse speakers on campus, she said.

“Hillsdale College stu­dents are typ­i­cally bathed in their own opinions,” Scanlan said. “Their beliefs are rein­forced on a daily basis, and that can be very detri­mental on either side. There is the exact same thing on liberal cam­puses.”

Being exposed to only liberal beliefs encouraged Blum to explore other ideas, he said.

“Part of what pushed me in a direction of con­ser­vatism was running into enclaves where it was clear that what would be per­ceived as more pro­gressive or left-leaning thought was imposed and taught as true,” he said.

Giving stu­dents chances to interact with various per­spec­tives is important to edu­cation, Blum said.

“I want to par­tic­ipate in open dia­logue as much as pos­sible, because I always know I could be wrong,” Blum said. “Even when I believe some­thing pas­sion­ately, I still know I could be wrong.”