Uncategorized

Are Affinity Groups for Everyone?

by Lindsey Mahomes

Recently, a group of approximately 30 students came together to form Greenhill’s Republican affinity group. Upset by what they feel is a distinctly liberal-leaning student body and faculty, the young Republicans felt the need for their own forum, separate from Greenhill’s Political Action Club (PAC). An affinity group “is just a safe place to talk, without anyone judging,” commented senior Benjamin Schindler. “PAC is all liberal. When we voice our opinion, it’s not taken seriously.”

Whether or not there is a proper justification for a Republican affinity group has sparked a debate within Greenhill’s community about the purpose of an affinity group and about which struggles warrant their own group. After much discussion and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I am of two minds on this subject. Since this is the case, I will be presenting both the point and counter-point (in random order) on this issue.

Point: 

I am unable to fully comprehend the need for a Republican affinity group. However, I recognize that this is because I am the ‘majority’ in this situation, as my viewpoints are primarily liberal. In English 10, we discussed the interesting concept of ‘privilege.’ The definition of privilege is when your experience happens to be considered the norm. When this is the case, it can be hard to perceive or understand problems endured by those whose experience is not the norm. Thus, from my perspective, most of the struggles voiced by those in the affinity group seem to have a minimal impact on their daily lives.

Nevertheless, I believe the definition of an affinity group may have been mischaracterized within the Greenhill community. An affinity group is simply a gathering for those who share a common interest. While all affinity groups that have previously formed at Greenhill have shared a common interest that happens to be one of the eight core identifiers, there is no official rule that says a group must form around one of these. Furthermore, it is not up to the broader Greenhill community to decide whether or not said group is justified in forming a group. Any collection of people that wishes to form an affinity group has the right to do so, regardless of whether their reasoning for doing so is considered justified or not. Affinity groups are not formed on the basis of a collective consensus between all students, and rightly so.

Additionally, a special forum for conservatives to voice their opinions without fear of harsh commentary might end up enhancing political discussions. As students with right-leaning opinions become more comfortable sharing their thoughts, perhaps they will come to PAC in larger numbers and with more confident opinions. Once the group discusses the issues they currently face when trying to articulate their opinions within a largely liberal community, they will (hopefully) choose to expand their discussion into a more diverse setting. This would greatly benefit the student body by offering a wide array of views to be represented in political discussions.

Regardless, a Republican affinity group is something that a community that cherishes diversity, such as Greenhill, should accept, if not embrace.

Counter-Point:   

I am unable to fully comprehend the need for a Republican affinity group. While I admit that I cannot completely empathize with what a Republican at Greenhill must feel, I somehow cannot imagine that his or her experience at Greenhill is as dramatically affected by their political views as someone’s is as, say, a racial minority. Here’s why: traditionally, affinity groups have formed based on one (or more) of the eight core identifiers, race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic class, age, gender, sexuality, and ability. While I do not mean to trivialize anyone’s struggles, I think it is fair to draw a distinction between these identifiers and a political affiliation. In my opinion, the difference is that all of the identifiers listed seem to be intrinsic to one’s identity, whereas political affiliation is not. If I were to do or say something (unrelated to politics), my political affiliation would be irrelevant because an association with a specific party generally only applies to political situations. However, whatever I did or said, regardless of the content, my race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic class, gender, age, sexuality, and ability would still be relevant. So why have we made an affinity group for conservative thoughts, instead of a club?

While it is true that all students deserve a safe space to voice their opinions, I am unconvinced an affinity group resolves most (if any) of the issues the conservative students have voiced. In talking to some of the members of the group, many have cited PAC as one of the main examples for why they need a safe space. However, if PAC is part of the problem, how could retreating from PAC to a separate “safe space” possibly solve this? It seems like the better solution would have been to either a) grab a few like-minded friends and head to PAC to participate as a group or b) talk to the club’s leadership about the lack of diversity in opinions that are regularly represented at club meetings and the fact that some opinions are being shot down simply because they are not those of the majority. These seem, at least to me, to be both less controversial and more expeditious ways to achieve the same result.

Additionally, the group seems likely to be ineffective because of the environment an affinity group creates. Fundamentally, affinity groups create environments in which an individual is surrounded by those who agree with him or her. As comforting as this is, it can be extremely hard to learn how to formulate a valid opinion, because, in a group where you are the majority, there is no one to challenge the justifications for what you believe. I have no doubt that the conservatives in the group have been verbally attacked just for having a different opinion. On the other hand, I am also sure that there have been times where people have harshly attacked their opinions, as opposed to personally attacking them. One of the great things about being around people with different opinions is that it teaches you to have proper justifications for your opinions. Without interacting with other people, it is possible to develop close-minded or offensive opinions simply because they are never challenged. While this is not guaranteed to happen with the affinity group, it is likely the involved students will miss out on the benefits gained from defending opinions when they are scrutinized.

Regardless, a secluded Republican affinity group is not the most effective way to resolve Greenhill’s alleged harsh approach to conservative thought.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like