Thursday, September 15, 2011

12 Most Politically Charged College Campuses

Protests, political rallies and activism have been centered around college campuses for decades, perhaps because these sites are havens for free thought and inquiry, or because many college students are filled with a passion and idealism that isn’t as prevalent in the working world. Whatever the reason, not all colleges are created equal when it comes to political fervor, and some stand out as being particularly politically charged.


While this is by no means a definitive list, we think the schools we’ve highlighted here are some of the most political in the country. Home to radical thought, politically involved students and faculty, and strong activist communities, these schools make a name for themselves not only though the education they provide but also the drive of their students to change the world and fight for what they believe is right.

  1. Hampshire College

    Hampshire College is one of America’s most notoriously liberal colleges. A haven for hippies and free thinkers, the school takes a different approach when it comes to grading, curriculum and the design of majors themselves. These factors combine to create a school that’s pretty politically-charged as a whole, with students who aren’t afraid to speak out on controversial issues. This year, Hampshire activists actually shut down an Israeli PR campaign with loud and unrelenting cheers. Thirty five years earlier, Hampshire was the first institution to divest from Apartheid in South Africa. In 2008, 350 students walked out of classes to protest what they felt was institutional racism at the school. With a long history of political involvement and a continual commitment to it by students at Hampshire today, this school is undoubtedly one of the most politically active today.

  2. Columbia University

    Columbia has consistently been ranked as one of the best schools in the nation for decades, but it doesn’t just provide students with a great place to get an education; it’s also a hub for political debate and protest. This isn’t just a recent development, either. In 1968, the school was home to several major (and quite legendary) protests, opposing the school’s expansion into neighboring Morningside Heights, a partnership between Columbia and the Pentagon and the school’s involvement in supporting the Vietnam War. Since that time, students at Columbia have spoken out about apartheid, Darfur, Palestine and a whole host of other political hot button issues.

  3. George Washington University

    Located mere blocks from the White House, students at George Washington U are encouraged to immerse themselves in the political life of the surrounding community, and many students take on serious political internships as early as their freshman or sophomore years. Unlike some of the other schools on this list, GWU is home to a wide spectrum of political beliefs, due in part perhaps to its very diverse campus. While the political atmosphere at GWU is more about direct involvement with the U.S. government than a thriving activism culture, that doesn’t mean the school has been controversy-free. In 2010, over 2,000 students got together to counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church, a notoriously anti-gay, fundamentalist group. The school was also a site of major protest in 2001, when it was home to huge protests against the IMF and World Bank.

  4. Occidental College

    Occidental College has been the site of some pretty politically-charged debates over the past 50 years. In 1970, Occidental students wrote 7,000 letters to Washington D.C. to protest U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1998, students persuaded the college president, to issue a public statement criticizing the oil company Arco’s support for the military dictatorship in Burma. Today, there are numerous organizations on campus that actively protest for causes like gay rights, human rights, and labor unions and the students are no strangers to debate with the school winning the first Los Angeles Public Debate Championship in 2005.

  5. Pitzer College

    Pitzer College has historically been a very liberal school and student activism has always been a major part of college life. Athletics aren’t as popular for many students at Pitzer, but that’s because many see involvement in politics as a sort of sport in itself. In fact, many students take their political involvement nearly as seriously as their studies (though many are majoring in political studies to begin with). Students at Pitzer have protested in recent years about a wide range of issues, from the alleged injustices of the Jena Six to the the college bringing in Karl Rove as a speaker. While most students at Pitzer are left-leaning politically, the school is a hotbed of political activity of all kinds.

  6. Claremont McKenna College

    While more conservative than neighboring Pitzer, Claremont McKenna College isn’t any less politically-charged. The most popular majors at the school are economics and public policy (about 40% of the student body majors in either government or economics) and students work hard to get accepted into the school’s internship program which brings students into positions within Washington DC political offices. Gaining the ire of students at Claremont McKenna have been issues like a striptease in a campus cafeteria and a hate crime directed at a professor (though it was later revealed she had vandalized her own car).

  7. University of California, Berkeley

    UC Berkeley gained a reputation as a politically active school during the 1960s when students banded together to protest the Vietnam War and to support the Free Speech Movement. While less politically active overall today, students at Berkeley still draw on the school’s protest past to express their feelings today. In protest of the war in Iraq, 1,500 students showed up at a rally in Sproul Plaza which evolved into a sit-in, the result of which was 98 students being dragged from the campus and arrested. Students at Berkeley participate in a wide variety of political and activism groups covering the spectrum of political beliefs and interests, with email petitions, presentations, and protests still very much a part of life on campus.

  8. New York University

    NYU has a reputation for having some of the most politically active students in American higher education — and for a reason. Students at the school aren’t afraid to express their beliefs, and many have gotten arrested for their protests. One of the biggest political issues that has rocked NYU’s campus in the past decade was the war in Iraq. Many students on campus were staunchly against the war, and activists weren’t shy about getting the message out. A group of students rushed the stage of MTV’s Total Request Live, another group disrupted a United Nations assembly with anti-war chants, and another 1,200 students walked out of class to protest the war.

  9. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    While many may not think of Wisconsin when they picture politically charged schools, UW Madison has a long history of student activism, protest and political involvement. During the 1960s and 1970s, violent demonstrations against the Vietnam War swept through the campus. The violence reached a breaking point when a student-led bombing attack on campus resulted in one death and severe damage to Sterling Hall. More recently, the school was central in the debate on unions and academic benefits, and has a strongly outspoken and politically active student body today.

  10. Wesleyan University

    Much of what goes on at Wesleyan University is student-run, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that students on campus are very politically involved with both local and national issues. While student government plays a major role in this political activism, the school is no stranger to demonstrations and political discussions. In fact, in 1988, 110 students were arrested for protesting the university’s relationship with South African businesses (who were allegedly supporting apartheid). Even today the school has a reputation for their political protests, passion and commitment.

  11. Oberlin College

    Oberlin College has always been a very politically liberal institution, even being the first college to admit African-American students. Students also get the chance to teach their own classes and the school puts greater emphasis on learning than test scores. This novel approach to curriculum has caused many to criticize it as being too progressive, but students don’t seem to mind as the freedom allows them to embrace their social causes and political beliefs with greater fervor. Oberlin students took part in the G20 Summit protests, have spoken out against numerous controversial campus speakers, and was a major site of activism during the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement.

  12. American University

    Located in Washington DC, American University draws in huge amounts of political science, law, and government majors. The proximity to the nation’s capital offers students a chance to work closely with real-life politics, and many take on internships in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Unlike many other schools on this list, American University attracts a healthy blend of conservative and liberal students, which may help further ignite the political debates that take place on campus. Numerous students take part in political forums, protests and work actively in both campus and national governmental groups.

Taken From Best Colleges Online

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