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Breaking The Silence: A Conservative Student Speaks Up

I was the only one not expressing fear and disdain in my classroom the morning after President Donald Trump was elected. I listened to my classmates’ complaints and concerns, but refrained from sharing my support for him. I feared my peers would ridicule and shun me. Though I don’t support Donald Trump’s personal actions, I would have voted for him because of our similar political ideologies. But there was no way I was going to tell that to the class.

Many conservative students, like myself, feel pressured into silence because we believe the odds are stacked against us.

This is largely because most colleges are more liberal than conservative. Whether it be professors or students, it is statistically proven that colleges in the U.S. are left-leaning.

Sociologist Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia found in 2013 that “50 percent of professors describe themselves as being ‘left or liberal.’” Based on his findings, Gross estimated that professors are “about three times more liberal” than average American adults.

That liberal majority may cause conservative students to close up. It can be difficult to express yourself when everyone in the room has a contradicting viewpoint.

The results from a political poll the Independent released in February are quite telling. As of March 7, 55 percent of 327 respondents polled from Washington and Oregon perceived the Clark campus climate as liberal, and 2 percent saw the campus as conservative. As for actual party lines, 32 percent of respondents identified as liberal, while 26 percent identified as conservative.

If we have a fairly even mix of both political sides, why do only 2 percent see the campus as conservative? I believe it’s because most conservatives keep politics to themselves, even though liberals across the nation say they welcome all political viewpoints.

The general undercurrent of free expression and tolerance adds a level of sour irony to the issue. The reality is that most claimed tolerance is probably meant for minorities with liberal values.

I felt the reality of this dichotomy when I attended an event as a reporter and realized I was likely the only one in the room with conservative views. When asked to be honest about our “minority identities,”  I knew I couldn’t truly do what was asked. Although college conservatives are statistically outnumbered, we aren’t included in the generally thought of minority groups because our values aren’t liberal like those of typical minorities. It’s unlikely that conservative values are something the college public wants to hear.

Michael Ceriello, a political science professor at Clark, sees diverse opinions as part of the natural college experience. “By sheer numbers, you’re going to run into people with different points of view,” he said.

If differences and acceptance are such important concepts in diversity, then I believe that acceptance must be directed towards all, even to those with non-liberal views.

Christian student Kayla Rainey stressed the importance of support groups. She said she felt outnumbered politically and experienced backlash because of her faith, but decided to speak up anyway. She said that speaking up created conflict with a teacher, but the Christian club on campus helped her to overcome the criticism she received.

“I may not agree with some of these things, but I don’t think you should bash someone because of their religion,” she said. “I think what helps me with being on a liberal campus is having a group of Christian friends in my life.”

Here at Clark, imbalanced political pressure prevents a multilateral conversation from happening. I encourage students and faculty to think outside of the box, to consider every political viewpoint, and to mean it when they say that they are accepting of different opinions. I also want to encourage conservative students to speak up when the need is felt, despite the pressure of a liberal atmosphere. Opposite voices are crucial to success, and as a public institution, Clark must be able to operate well with diverse opinions.

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