The contemporary success of political conservatism has led some Americans to believe that conservatives have nothing to complain about, that there are no conditions under which a conservative student might find themselves that could possibly engender a legitimate feeling of deliberate exclusion. If only that were true.
There are many instances in which conservative students are made to feel intimidated if they identify themselves or render a conservative opinion in the classroom.
Students for Academic Freedom currently lists more than 300 individual complaints going back over the last 18 months that chronicle various types of alleged anti-conservative bias in the classroom. In my own experience I have witnessed many professors expressing biased liberal viewpoints when they’re up in front of the class.
Overwhelmingly this is just a comment or two, but sometimes there’s more to it than that. And while I’ve never felt personally discriminated against or treated differently in terms of how a professor grades me or interacts with me in class due to it being generally known on what side of the political aisle I reside, that does not mean I think it’s appropriate for said professors to take advantage of a guaranteed captive audience of impressionable youth (and you are that, engage in self-denial if you wish) with their personal opinion on matters not relevant to a fair rendering of the course material.
History is replete with cases of people being discriminated against for who they are just as often as for what they believe. Christians in Rome, the first Muslims in Mecca, Jews through several centuries in Europe, African-Americans in the American South, etcetera, etcetera. It is no more disrespectful to use a readily recognized moniker that represents the idea of being proud of what and who you are regardless of the opinions of others than it is to voice positions that many would find unpopular because one believes them to be right.
We have a wonderfully diverse campus community here at UM. There is literally a place for everyone to go and be able to endeavor for the cause one believes in. Although most of you expend your efforts elsewhere, this is especially true in politics. For conservatives there are Advocates for Conservative Thought and the College Republicans. For liberals there’s the Young Democrats. For those who are really liberal there’s S.T.A.N.D. And for those that don’t fit into either category there’s Council for Democracy.
While I definitely agree that respect of each other is an important part of coexistence within a community, so is the finding of common ground. This is true whether it’s because of who you believe you were born to be… or what you believe life is all about.
Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.