Where’s the Elephant?

I can’t shake the feeling that something at PA has been irrevocably changed. It’s been three weeks since Kip Fulbeck’s explosive, conservative-baiting All-School performance, and the fallout is beginning to clear. I’ve stopped receiving apologetic emails from administrators, the Democrats Club and GSA have ceased gloating and the Young Republicans seem to have forgotten about him enough to get back to their usual economy and foreign policy debates. The school needs to hire a conservative All-School speaker. Whenever I argue about the degree of this school’s liberal bias, all my opponent has to do is bring up Kip Fulbeck, and all my arguments are moot. Not that I have many to begin with. The liberal bias in this school is apparent to anyone who has attended orientation and at least one ASM. Whether it’s the Coming-Out Day event on the steps of Sam Phil, speeches about community awareness, social conscience and My Summer in Africa, or the fact that 95 percent of faculty and 60 percent of students identify as Democrats (according to the 2008 Phillipian State of the Academy Survey), Phillips Academy is undeniably a liberal institution. Of course, there have been some exceptions. I remember stumbling out of the Chapel two years ago, spluttering and incoherent with rage after a speaker attacked John F. Kerry a full two years after the Senator’s presidential run. I imagine this is the way the conservative crowd felt on September 24. The attack on Kerry was as irrelevant and inflammatory as Fullbeck’s McCain and Obama quips, but most importantly, it overshadowed the rest of the speech. I have no recollection of what the man was speaking about, but in retrospect I’ll bet it was hateful conservative gibberish. In the same way, many students will remember Fulbeck as the bleeding-heart liberal who attacked a fine, upstanding senator and war veteran, while promoting a shamelessly inexperienced and unqualified upstart who also happened to be a senator. The real problem, perhaps misunderstood, is that everyone missed the point of Fulbeck’s speech, which raised powerful questions about self-identity. Instead everyone got hung up on one put-down and one put-up. I think he was trying to emphasize the sheer progressiveness—the utter and absolute wonder—of having a viable half-black candidate for president only two generations after the civil rights movement began in earnest, as well as the idea that we should look past his (multi)-race, and regard him as just another politician. But after almost a month, everyone has already made up their minds on the topic, and nothing I say will do much. I’m off topic anyways. The point is that Fulbeck’s speech made the liberal bias at Phillips Academy a contentious and visible issue, inciting some enjoyable controversy and pressuring the administration to hire a conservative speaker, lest it break its promise to educate us on all fronts. I doubt this was what the administration or Fulbeck intended, but it is a good thing nonetheless. I would love to have a conservative speaker at All-School. I would sit and listen attentively (unlike those jerks who sat behind me during Fulbeck’s speech and wouldn’t cease jabbering even after I told them to stop), I would join the standing ovation, provided the speaker put on a good show, and I would, of course, be happy to show our guest around campus after the speech. I am after all an Andover student. But I would also be the first person standing in line at CAMD, pulsing with rage and full of nasty questions, as my conservative friends were following Fulbeck’s act. Hire a conservative all-school speaker. If nothing else, it’ll at least give me some ammunition the next time I am assaulted by Young Republicans whining about the cancerous liberal bias inherent in the administration. Bijan Torabi is a three-year Upper from Andover, Mass.