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The push towards left-leaning ideas at Bocconi

Juliette Buzare

It is a commonly held belief that colleges cultivate progressive ideas, with their campuses being filled with students who are often sheltered and spend their time studying theoretical concepts with little exposure to practical applications in the outside world. However, in the past few years, this liberal attitude that comes with the newfound freedom one discovers at university, coupled with social movements that dictate political discourse, seems to have mutated into belief in ideologies that go directly against the adages of institutions students attend.

Data from the University of California at the Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute showed that among full-time faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, the percentage identifying as "far left" or liberal has increased significantly in its last survey. With such an increasingly leftist culture, it has come as no surprise that this political one-sidedness has seeped into the world of academia and caused legitimate issues, from the threatening of speakers such as conservative federal judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford to the growing need for intellectual conformity in the form of academics feeling they need to self-censor.

From an observational point of view, how left-leaning ideas have affected Bocconi differs from other schools. There is less emphasis on wokeism, like in most US and UK universities, and more of a push towards old-school leftist beliefs. However, this feels quite paradoxical considering Bocconi is widely regarded as Italy's most expensive private university, with designer bags on the arm of nearly every student, weekend plans often making a minor holiday to Mykonos and one's future career plans being to own a hedge fund eventually. Bocconi's legacy and its students' future are rooted in the opportunities laid out by the capitalistic economy in which we exist. Yet, communist posters are handed out in front of Leoni by students who believe the yoke of socialism would be a superior system to the one which has enabled them to have everything they value in life.

The financial elite of Milan is formed at Bocconi, and their influence shapes society, making the hypocrisy even more profound. Especially nowadays, a problem often brought up regarding the "elites" is how out of touch they are, profiting from a system they will then brutally criticise. Perhaps it is out of guilt, longing for ubiquitous equality, or the intrinsic angst students feel for having to sell their souls to corporate finance. Still, such unwillingness to admit to the benefits they gain from the free market is all the more representative of the liberal mindset, rooted in hypocrisy.

Yet, it is a common belief that universities should maintain a liberal outlook, as they are the primary institutions to do so. Bocconians often make this point when it comes to their political views and distaste for free markets. Still, when analysed more closely, it is the kind of attitude which has caused the progressive extremism we see in most institutions. One could argue that it even exposes the dark side of liberalism, taking inexperienced and naive students and making them believe in unrealistic ideas, only for them to be bulldozed by reality when they enter the workforce. As is evidenced by statistics showing that people become much more right-leaning with age as they get this dose of reality.

In conclusion, the growing liberal mindset at Bocconi reflects our gradually progressive society. We are moving away from the mentality that once enabled us to build an unparalleled economic system towards one characterised by hypocrisy and cowardice. A system in which free markets are vilified for being intrinsically unfair whilst equality and fairness are conflated. 

That being said, capitalism and free markets are far from perfect, but the fact that progressivism appears to be now morphing into a false sense of liberalism not only endangers what we value in free markets but echoes ideas that became prominent in May 68’ meaning that we must once again face the return of leftist ideas, this time in a different form but equally as dangerous.

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