FIMS Is Left-Leaning and It's Problematic

Ask any student in the faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and they will likely admit that FIMS is a significantly left-leaning program. This political partisanship is common in programs widely considered to be “soft degrees,” meaning anything that isn’t science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM); arts, English and social science students seem to agree that, while our degrees cover a wide variety of political and contextual subjects, an undercurrent of left-wing bias is almost always present. While all programs in academia are considered somewhat liberal, it is clear that there are some programs that are more partial than others. Because I cannot speak for anyone but myself, I’d like to contribute my opinion as to the presence of a left-leaning bias in FIMS and why it should be questioned.

Let’s begin by recognizing my own bias in this discussion. I am a left-leaning person and exhibit many liberal traits that are shared among writers at Her Campus Western and students in FIMS. I’m a non-religious, intersectional feminist and educated white woman who is vocal about human rights, inequality and body positivity, who speaks about sex and mental health on a fairly regular basis both online and off. Like many of my peers, I’m usually happy that my personal political views aren’t attacked very often in my classes. To be frank, my program’s content is extremely varied, but it always returns to relatively Liberal subjects.

For those who still don’t understand what FIMS is, it’s essentially a program that believes that the study of context, whether it be through cultural studies, political economy, or medium theory, is integral to our understanding of the world. We’re like a mixture of journalism, politics and marketing, with a sprinkle of inequality studies and dollops of technology studies and sociology. As a result of such a mish-mash, the majority of our classes contain both theory and history, with current events remaining a constant. A lot of the concepts we discuss include conversations about dominant power structures, which are complicated, ingrained ideologies that require a lot of discussion to understand. Thus, there is a lot of room for the professor to specialize lectures toward their own areas of study, which sometimes leads to left-leaning opinions being expressed as fact.

A good example of this discomfort happened to me last term. I had a professor who lectured on political spectacle and used a photo of Conservative candidate Andrew Scheer as an example, almost mocking his campaign photos due to their depiction of a white, Christian, insinuatingly “bland” family. Her point was that voters make assumptions based on the marketing campaigns of candidates, which I think all of us can agree with. However, the derision being taught as unquestionable material was disconcerting to many, and I can imagine feeling even more uncomfortable if I was not part of her target demographic. Most of my peers are liberal-minded, so it didn’t do too much damage, but the classroom should be a safe space that does not make any student feel ostracized for their views, especially in a program that centers on the inclusion of alternative viewpoints. While most FIMS professors who appear Liberally-biased do not express their views as blatantly and controversially as this, this is one example of several in which the program’s left-leaning tendency was made obvious to the people who may not be aware of it all the time. And although this instance did not cause any overt harm, I believe there was ideological harm done in the implication that it’s okay to ostracize students who may support Andrew Scheer, and that this should be the norm.

My thought here is that, for the most part, no one’s preconceived opinions are being challenged; there is no dialogue going on. While most of us seem to agree with the left-leaning ideas of our professors, it seems like any room for more right-wing perspectives is limited and unexplored. Meanwhile, in a program literally contingent on the importance of questioning dominant, hegemonic structures, we are subtly discouraged from expressing alternative viewpoints. Continuing to redundantly confirm each other’s beliefs is not going to prompt any growth or change, but rather limit us in our ability to find out what our actual opinions are and formulate better arguments against those we disagree with. Preaching to the choir is invigorating sometimes, and understandably, it feels great to have your opinion validated. However, I don’t honestly believe that this is the best way we could be learning in order to grow as students and human beings.

The times in which I’ve learned the most about myself are when I’ve had conversations with those who disagree with me. These are the times when I’ve changed my views on the world, or better understood why I choose not to change them, or even formulate better arguments for my beliefs. It’s impossible to see the full scope of an issue when you only consider evidence that validates your own perspective. While I’m not claiming that FIMS is in any way discriminatory towards Conservative students, because I do think the space exists to come forward if you felt uncomfortable with a bias or topic covered, I do think that the FIMS environment more actively encourages politically Liberal ideas and is often blind to its biases. While I don’t have a solution, my recommendation is this: have more conversations about this. Find out who hasn’t noticed the bias and make them notice it. Question whether this is the education we want or whether we could be getting better if we encouraged more diversity in opinion, while maintaining a comfortable learning space for people of all political views. Finally, let’s figure out how to discuss important, contextual content without making people feel like they can’t express their opinions if they deviate from the norm. After all, allowing everyone to have an equal voice is the hallmark of a FIMS education.

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