The Georgetown University Lecture Fund describes itself as a “non-partisan student run organization” focused on promoting dialogue through various campus events. However, an examination of recent events reveals that liberal speakers far outnumber moderates or conservatives among the Lecture Fund’s invited and sponsored guests.
The Georgetown Review compiled a list of all Lecture Fund speakers between October 1, 2013 and March 15, 2017 and classified each political speaker on a continuum from liberal to conservative. Speakers who had not publicly expressed strong political stances were excluded from the analysis.
The data shows that liberal speakers were vastly overrepresented compared to moderate and conservative guests. In fact, liberal and left-leaning speakers accounted for approximately 70% of political speakers hosted by the Lecture Fund during this period. Moderate conservatives were the least represented group among the categorization of political speakers, with only one recorded in the data.
Georgetown has historically hosted many of Washington, DC’s most prominent government officials and elected representatives, each of whom has used the university’s platform to influence conversations on the nation’s most critical policy questions. The ideological distribution of speakers who have worked in government as elected officials reflects the overall trend represented in the distribution of events.
The ideological distribution of general political figures—including activists, political commentators, journalists and other figures—shows a similar distribution.
In both cases, liberal speakers significantly outnumber moderate and conservative speakers. The ideological divide is slightly less pronounced in these groups, especially among elected officials. However, liberal and left-leaning speakers still represent a majority of the speakers hosted by the Lecture Fund.
To confirm a consistent trend, it is necessary to examine whether one year could have skewed the total number of speakers during the four-year period. The trend lines of speakers by ideology suggest otherwise.
The graph shows that the political trend among speakers has been consistent across the period, although not nearly as dramatic in 2015. In every year, the number of liberal and left-leaning speakers has more than doubled the number of conservative and right-leaning speakers. No more than four conservative or right-leaning speakers have been hosted on campus in any given year. The data is incomplete for 2017 as it comprises only the first 3 months of the year, but the results so far indicate a possible continuation of this trend.
To be clear, the Lecture Fund has hosted many popular apolitical speakers during this time as well. In fact, apolitical speakers represent a plurality of all speakers from 2013-2017, slightly more than the liberal speakers during this time.
What could have caused such a drastic difference in the number of liberal and conservative speakers? Several possible explanations arise.
First, the Lecture Fund could simply reflect the political views of the student body at large. Georgetown’s undergraduate population tends to identify more liberal than conservative, and it is thus possible that liberal speakers would be more popular with both the Lecture Fund board and the student body.
Conservative speakers can also be highly controversial on college campuses today. In 2015, student groups protested GUCR speaker Christina Hoff Summers due to her views on feminism. Perhaps, the Lecture Fund seeks to avoid creating a similar level of controversy with their events.
Finally, the period represented in the data included a Democratic administration in power. Quite possibly, officials from the administration readily sought these opportunities, and the Lecture Fund welcomed them in kind.
Whatever the exact reason, the data is clear: Lecture Fund guests—both in and out of government— have been overwhelmingly liberal.
As a new Republican administration and Congress come to power in Washington, D.C., the Lecture Fund has perhaps the clearest opportunity in nearly a decade to expand the political breadth of its invited and sponsored guests.