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Inside Politics

Stereotypes at UPenn: The not-so-simple truth

By Spencer Willig
Special to CNN

Student reporter Spencer Willig stands on campus at UPenn.

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Campus Vibe
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America Votes 2004

Editor's note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Spencer Willig, news director for WQHS, the University of Pennsylvania student radio station. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the University of Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Despite its multidimensional offerings and character, the University of Pennsylvania's two largest schools -- Wharton School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences -- don't escape political stereotyping.

The College of Arts and Sciences students lean toward the left, the perception goes, while Wharton students, filled with faith and hope in the market economy, are believed to veer right.

"It would seem to be the nature of the school," said Wharton sophomore Craig Cohen, a self-described "fairly conservative" ex-College of Arts student. "The more pro-business atmosphere is obviously more conservative than a traditional liberal arts curriculum."

Senior Lauren Moskovitz, on the verge of completing degrees at both Wharton and the School of Engineering, agreed that Wharton students naturally identify with relatively conservative positions on business and public policy issues.

"Certainly, the population in the Wharton School is more conservative than in the College," she said. "I think it's because students realize that their dreams of striking it rich will be dependent upon the success of big business in America. ... The bulk of [Wharton] students align their interests with what their College peers call 'the Man.'"

With a job waiting for her in Citigroup's fixed-income quantitative research division, Moskovitz said she has drifted to the right since her freshman year.

"I registered and voted as a Democrat four years ago... since I have accepted a job in the corporate world, it has... become apparent to me that my interests are also aligned with those of big business, and however scary that now sounds to me, I can't forget that either," she said.

No perceptible divide

Still, others say the political divide between undergrads at Donald Trump's alma mater and their College counterparts isn't as great or as simple as it may seem.

Wharton and Engineering School sophomore Jeff Klein said that, given the number of international students at Wharton, some undergrads' political stances reflect their origins.

"International students will have different concerns, regardless of the school they're in," he said. "If they're from Europe, they might be concerned about U.S. policy on the war, Chinese students, their issue might be Taiwan."

"Maybe Wharton has a bit of a more conservative leaning -- that's certainly the stereotype I came in with," said Vikas Didwania, a Wharton sophomore who is also pursuing a degree in the College. "Meanwhile, three of the people on the board of the Penn Democrats are Wharton students."

Didwania, who considers his political views to be liberal, said that, fiscal policy aside, his classmates more or less share the political opinions most college students exhibit.

"The people I talk to on a daily basis support social programs, they're anti-death penalty, they support homosexual rights," he said. "Maybe in terms of fiscal and economic policy I've moved a little bit to the right -- it's kind of hard to resist that -- but I would imagine that that happens to everyone who takes economics in general, and not just Wharton kids."

Allowing that, some Wharton undergrads are "to the right of Dick Cheney," Wharton senior Thomas Foley said.

Despite the "perception that Wharton attracts some conservative students... I'd have to say that isn't necessarily true -- I honestly couldn't say the majority of students at Wharton are conservative," he added.

"Conservatives are people who already have money. ... Wharton students are hungry. They haven't even thought about being conservative just yet, that's something they'll think about when they're 40 or 50."

Foley also said that a number of Wharton graduates go on to work for non-profit organizations, and that many are noted for philanthropy.

He also cited to the business school's curriculum, which includes community service.

"Every student, when they take Management 100, satisfies a community service requirement," Foley said. "The minute you step in here and take Management 100, you're thinking not only about yourself but about the community."

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