If one took a survey of how socially liberal or conservative a campus is, where would Georgetown lie? Are we liberal or are we conservative? And what would either label even mean for what campus discourse looks like?

These questions are of particular interest to this scribe, because I come from a country with a very different political spectrum. The logical place to start this discussion seems to be with academics – after all, though many of us may sometimes forget it, we are here to study. While it would not be prudent to ascribe labels to other people without their permission, I get the sense that most professors at Georgetown would consider themselves leaning more liberal than conservative.

This seems to follow the national trend where – according to the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan, public policy research organization – more than 90 percent of professors in the arts and sciences departments at major universities in the United States are registered Democrats. This is not to suggest that Georgetown has the same percentages, but merely to put the above assertion in context.

Moving on to student life, one can broadly categorize student life as having religious, political and social aspects. With respect to religious life, there seems to be a consensus that Georgetown provides excellent resources for students and is definitely one of the most accepting – if not the most accepting – campuses when it come to religious differences and dialogue.

As evidence, I offer our multi-religious campus ministry, one of the largest in the United States. The New York Times recently acknowledged the quality of religious life at Georgetown as “an oasis of tolerance” with respect to Shia-Sunni differences on campus.

The problem in assessing whether or not our religious tolerance makes us liberal or conservative in this context is complicated by the fact that pluralism is not an exclusively liberal value, and many of the most pluralistic people on this campus happen to be conservative.

If one were to define being conservative as seeking to preserve tradition, then one might even classify Georgetown’s pluralistic religious values as conservative, though there is an admittedly liberal element to it as well. While it can always be argued that the university is “not Catholic enough”, I know of many conservative, traditionalist Catholics who feel quite comfortable here.

The same description might be made about the social atmosphere on campus. The campus has a definite pluralistic feel to it, but not in a context where differences are set aside. Rather, they are brought forth and celebrated. Evidence for this assertion comes from the consistently high attendance at the flagship performances of the various cultural clubs on campus. Yet there is a certain degree of social conservatism that is more pronounced at Georgetown than at other schools like the Ivies.

For one thing, we have a much healthier non-drinking culture than most of the other schools on the U.S. News and World Report top-tier list. According to Students Marketing Under Recognized Facts, around 17 percent of students on campus do not consume alcoholic beverages at all. And with the introduction of late-night programming, for which the Center for Student Programs and Inter Hall must be commended, it is possible that we will see many more alternatives to keggers in the coming years. I am inclined to ascribe this aversion to alcohol to a certain social conservatism that runs through the Hilltop.

There are, of course, many other indicators that one can use to gauge the positioning of this campus on the liberal-conservative spectrum, but it is difficult to pinpoint where on that spectrum Georgetown would fall. Indeed, it would be interesting to see how others use different metrics to answer the question of whether Georgetown qualifies as a liberal or conservative school. This is an ongoing discussion and certainly a fascinating one; from which ideologies we derive our collective values.

Farooq Tirmizi is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at tirmizithehoya.com. FRESH OFF THE BOAT appears every other Tuesday.

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