Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024

Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans speak on the lack of political discourse on campus

By AASHI MENDPARA | May 6, 2022



Hopkins Republicans feel ostracized based on political beliefs on campus.

Representatives of Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans reflected on political engagement and transparency on campus in interviews with The News-Letter.

In an email to the The News-Letter, former Co-President of Hopkins Democrats Sylvana Schaffer explained that there is not a lot of dialogue among the student body. However, she feels that discourse is encouraged through courses, club events, social media and more. 

Schaffer shared how Hopkins Democrats encourages political engagement through speaker events and discussions. 

“During election years, we've also held events like debate watch parties and worked to help get more students registered. We also use social media and The News-Letter as a vehicle for responding to hot-button issues,“ she wrote.

Schaffer highlighted that Hopkins Democrats attempts to maintain transparency in their efforts. According to her, she sends regular emails to their mailing list of over 300 members to solicit feedback and provide updates on upcoming events.

Hopkins Republicans Treasurer Andre Zou echoed Schaffer’s comments on political engagement on campus in an email to The News-Letter, where he believes active political dialogue is not promoted on campus.

Zou stated that the Hopkins administration and the student body have clear partisan leanings. 

He explained that that there is a bias in favor of Democrats even in official school communications.  

“There is a clear stigma against any dissent (be it conservative, libertarian, etc.) against the liberal narrative on campus,” he wrote. “Many in the club have had experiences of being ostracized by their peers for expressing their political opinions.”

Schaffer noted that she has gotten some criticism from people who dislike the Democratic Party and identify as further left on the political spectrum. However, she has never personally felt excluded due to her beliefs. 

“College campuses tend to be pretty progressive, and I’ve found that to generally hold true here (at least among those who are vocal),“ she wrote.

The College Democrats and the College Republicans held a debate on April 14. The debate, which was open to the public, was not recorded for viewing after the event. 

Zou asserted that many members of the College Republicans requested for the debate not to be recorded because they have experienced ostracism.

“We try to protect the privacy and personal autonomy of our members,” he wrote. “Many of our members feared their quotes in the debate being taken out of context and used against them. Not recording decreases the tension and allows both sides to engage in a more genuine conversation.”

Schaffer shared that the College Democrats had no issue with recording at the debate. 

“While I personally thought some of our counterparts' fears were unfounded, I respect their concerns and politely agreed to honor their wishes,” she wrote.

Concerning future collaborations between the Hopkins Democrats and Hopkins Republicans, Schaffer stated that the clubs plan to continue regular engagement with one another.

“We've been doing these debates annually since my freshman year. I don't anticipate that changing anytime soon,” she wrote. 

Sylvana Schaffer is a contributing writer for The News-Letter. She did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.

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