Activism and Ideas with Matthew Stein ’20

Matthew Stein is a freshman from Windsor, New Jersey. We sat down and talked with him about politics, the importance of diversity of thought, and finding your way in a sometimes hostile environment.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m from West Windsor, NJ which is a town just outside of Princeton. I love politics, reading, hanging out with friends, weightlifting and playing soccer. I play for Swarthmore but had to sit out my first season because of a knee injury. I am also Jewish and religion is very important to me. I have been spending most of my free time reading about religion and politics.

You’re planning to double-major in Political Science and Economics. What first sparked your interest in those topics and how do you plan to combine them?

I’m fascinated by politics and I’ve always been in awe of American society. I fully believe that the United States is the greatest society in the history of the world and I’m passionate about defending its founding principles, which include limited government, capitalism, and a fierce commitment to individual liberty. Naturally, political science and economics allows me to dedicate my learning to these topics although the ideas that permeate these fields at Swarthmore are not always ones I agree with. I am very interested in a career which has something to do with politics, possibly journalism, policy making, or something else. These two majors set me up well for my plan of going to law school and then pursuing a career in that field.

As a writer for Campus Reform, a website dedicated to reporting incidences of political bias on college campuses, what do you think colleges can do to promote a more balanced political atmosphere?

I think colleges should be really focused on fostering a learning environment where everyone is comfortable sharing their opinion on a topic, even if it’s different than the standard opinion at that college. Swarthmore does a decent job of this in my opinion although I know many students who aren’t comfortable speaking up in class because the other students and/or their professors are hostile to them. I think hiring faculty that are more diverse would be a great step towards this end. And when I say diverse, I mean ideologically diverse not demographically diverse because demographic diversity means very little. Also at the very least they should end their practice of discriminating against groups that differ from the rest of the college ideologically. Many colleges across the country are obviously guilty of doing this, particularly as you see colleges banning conservative speakers.

You’re also active in the Conservative Society and Students for Israel. How do you navigate social life at Swarthmore where most students hold opinions very different from yours?

When I first arrived at Swarthmore, I decided that I wouldn’t be too active in political groups on campus in the interest of avoiding making negative impressions on people. However towards the end of my first semester I changed my mind and decided to be completely, or at least almost completely, open about my political views. I made this decision because I realized that if anyone is unwilling to associate with me because of my political views, then I am really indifferent to their opinion of me. I also realized that I am interested in a career dealing with politics and if I am going to make my political views my career, then I might as well start putting myself into the public eye now. I’d say some people definitely don’t like me because of my political views but for the most part people just want to prove me wrong but don’t take it to the level of personally disliking me. But as I said before, I’m pretty much indifferent at this point about people who would hate me over my political views so I have no concern anymore with making them public.

What are you looking forward to most for the rest of your time at Swarthmore?

I am definitely most looking forward to becoming more active publicly and gaining valuable experience. I really value being involved in the Conservative Society and in Swarthmore Students for Israel and I am excited to start becoming more involved in campus activity through these groups. I am also excited in expanding my role in off campus extracurriculars including doing more work for Campus Reform, and hopefully starting to write for other publications as well. I am learning a whole lot on a daily basis through my classes and personal endeavors and I am thoroughly looking forward to continuing that the next three years.

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