Breaking The Silence: A Conservative Student Speaks Up

(Andy Bao/The Independent)

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.

About Madelyn Petta (12 Articles)
I am the campus editor of the Indy newspaper at Clark College. I plan to graduate High School in 2018 with my AA and News Media Studies Certificate from Clark College, to transfer to a four-year university. I hold strong values of truth and good work.

27 Comments on Breaking The Silence: A Conservative Student Speaks Up

  1. The data from that survey isn’t an accurate representation. 300 some odd students is less than 10 percent of the campus population making that poll not an accurate sample. I’m not sorry you feel othered. Your support for Trump says more about you and the growth you have to do as an individual than it does about systemically non-dominant groups fighting for basic human rights, equity, and ultimately equality. If you actually support the goals of social justice, but remain supportive of a man like Donald Trump, your actions are not matching your intent. Your vote is a direct slap in the face to those of us who are being directly targeted by his administration. This feeling you’re experiencing is something marginalized people feel every single day…trump or no trump. So…welcome to the club. Google white privilege and educate yourself.

    • 1. most importantly, read your comment over and then read the article. Do you see the irony of what you’ve posted? you actually set the stage for her voice. She’s writing that people like yourself are causing conservatives to clam up and not speak…..you change no one’s opinion- you just hide them. no one’s talking because no one wants to be treated like dirt- like you did to the author. You are exactly what she’s talking about.
      2. Your response is nothing more than an Ad hominem attack, congratulations.
      3. Going off that same poll logic, no poll will ever be accurate. There is no poll to reach everyone, although i’m sure you participated to help make it accurate, because you did imply that you want social justice.
      4. i’m sure you missed the fact that she said “would have voted”….not voted. If you had intentionally overlooked that, that would make you intolerant of her opinion based off your assumptions…gasp…sounds a little like a conservative.
      5. she specifically wrote that she didn’t support Trump’s personal actions. i’m sure you accidentally overlooked that important distinction when you crucified her for supporting “a man like Donald Trump”.
      6. White privilege? People like yourself are turning white privilege against itself. by using that term, you’re taking away that “privilege” and turning it into “fear”. Most whites don’t feel privileged, they feel afraid because any moment nowadays someone will call them racists, white supremacists, fascists…..just because they’re white. isn’t that the definition of racism? …My liberal Aunt is ashamed that she is white. Was that the goal here? To make whites feel awful because some white individuals gave you a reason to make generalizations about the entire race? ….sounding a little conservative again.

  2. I would be curious to hear what you define as “bashing” in the classroom. Is it bashing if one’s faith and values are being questioned? I would encourage all of us to seek out ways in which we promote anyone to stay silenced. Imagine for one second how it feels to continually feel threatened because of your sexuality, to feel bullied because you want to use the bathroom you are most comfortable in, to feel like you are a threat because of the color of your skin and a host of so many other people with feelings and experiences of being marginalized. I agree with the above comment – educate yourself on white privilege and begin to make your changes from there.

    • Well said.

    • I would define “bashing” as having your beliefs be labeled as white privilege just because you’re on the same political party as Donald Trump. When I express my political views here at Clark, I know many people are going to label me as a white-supremacist Trump supporter (like you). I can tell because of how they talk that republican’s are climate-deniers, homophobic, and Islamophobic (all liberal buzz-words for us conservatives). I’m not any one of those, but I know people will think that way.
      Funny thing is, your comment just shows that liberals can make racist assumptions. Many of us conservative are of color. “White privilege?” I’m not white (I’m half-asian), but I’m still a conservative. So do I have an Asian privilege?

  3. Yikes. The hater above is representative of what prevents productive public discourse from taking place. Each person is entitled to an opinion and an expression of it.

    • I am also entitled to my opinion. And my opinion is not rooted in the author’s oppression. However, her views are rooted in the oppression of so many. Oppression is a system of power y’all clearly do not understand. I’d suggest educating yourselves in order to have more constructive discourse on this topic. Investigate your opinions and think critically rather than comparing the conservative experience to those who are marginalized. I’d challenge her to speak up in the classroom too, but come at that conversation from a place of empathy for others.

  4. “Although college conservatives are statistically outnumbered, we aren’t included in the generally thought of minority groups ….” I understand what’s being said here; however, there’s a difference between being the member of a group that is statistically a minority and having minority status. Political conservatives have not been historically and systematically denied access to housing, employment, healthcare, education, politics, justice, and healthy natural environments. For historically non-dominant groups, the focus is on long-running systems of inequity. Systemic inequality has not negatively impacted those who hold conservative views, regardless of whether they are literally in the minority of students in a classroom or on a campus, or even in a county or state.

    • Patrick Willis // March 15, 2017 at 12:25 pm // Reply

      Respectfully, I don’t read in this article that the intention is to compare conservatives on campus with systemically non-dominant groups, but to amplify a voice which has felt threatened and/or underrepresented in the classroom and on campus; yet somehow, the comments above are drawing that conclusion, seemingly with intent to minimize the stated concerns of the article. Is it not possible, then, for such minimization of concerns expressed here become, in effect, a systemic position which favors one group’s ideology over another (perhaps not in policy, but in reality)? In order to manifest the value of social equity, we need to embrace viewpoints like this, challenge ourselves to (at the very least) acknowledge that one person’s story and experience is not superior or inferior to our own – but different – and to embrace a commitment of mutual respect in our dialogue, modesty in our evaluation of our own knowledge of the world and its people, and critical thinking in our approach to academic study and our contributions to it. Just as those who visit or live in other parts of the world, learn another language, or study another personality type than their own are better able to evaluate and understand their native country, language, or personality type, we need to position ourselves within higher education to systemically encourage students and staff to become more familiar with the “foreign” ideology in order to better understand what differentiates it from our own. In an institution of education and learning, this should be a commitment we can all embrace.

  5. I’m sorry you felt that you couldn’t express your choice to choose. As a Christian liberal I can sympathize.

    I am a liberal and I respect your choice to be conservative. I may not agree with it but i know your faith leads you to your decisions. The same as many minorities who have gone through generations of alienation from this country only to be reminded again they don’t really belong, leads them to be liberals. Or their faith too may lead them to be liberals. I wouldn’t be a liberal if I felt I would end up in hell and be banished by God. I digress.

    Use the feelings you have to sympathize with others and to continue to spread His word. Regardless of what’s going on in this world, what party we choose, we have one place we must aim to be.

  6. Wow…I think after reading some of those comments I would keep my my shut TOO. Be brave & sign your name,,,Thank you Jo Ann Stanton

  7. Lucas Procee // March 15, 2017 at 10:34 pm // Reply

    I see that the comments have already fulfilled expectations…

    It’s good to see you put yourself out there, and I hope some of the more deplorables on campus feel encouraged to speak up with you. That’s an important endeavor, and I wish you luck!

    I’ll venture to give one suggestion or admonishment though. It’s important to use careful and precise language in communication. It helps both sides to see the viewpoint of the other, and it facilitates a moving forward in dialogue. In most conversations, whether in person or over some other medium, this is very rare.

    I would say that this is especially important in the realm of labels. I am naturally quick to place people into groups. Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. There’s a danger in it though, especially if the labels are non-specific, generic, and broad. For this reason, using labels that put the populace into only “conservative” or “liberal” points of view can be counter-productive.

    From what I can see, the spectrum of political theory is becoming more binary because of this way of speaking. When we grow up being told that there are only two options in the world of politics, neoconservativism or socialism, it’s no wonder that we end up choosing one of the two, even though there are legitimate options that don’t make it onto this 3×5 card of allowable opinion. The Old Right, for example, would oppose the modern conservative movement because of its belligerent militarism, its wholesale acceptance of “reasonable” socialism, and several other issues. Likewise, the left has several older branches, some of them more noble than the rest (not that I find much affinity with anyone on the left). For example, the principled anti-war left of an older generation is pretty much dead. No one on the majority left opposed Obama’s wars, because they weren’t really against war, just the ones they didn’t have the privilege of starting.

    Anyway. Your point does stand of course, one need only look at the first comment to realize that. It’s just helpful to remember that there are older and more nuanced positions out there than just the two that sit somewhere between Brietbart and MSNBC.

  8. Congratulations on your journey. Now you know how a “liberal” student feels at a “conservative” school in a red state. Isn’t it amazing how many life experiences are actually similar for all “humans” ? Peace be with you.

  9. Marley55bob! // March 16, 2017 at 1:44 pm // Reply

    Hi Patrick. For some reason my post won’t publish up above as a reply to you, but maybe if I post it here below it’ll publish.

    My overall takeaway from the article was not a comparison of conservatives on campus to systemically non-dominant groups. My reply above is focused only on the direct quote I included in my response.

    I’ll note it again. “Although college conservatives are statistically outnumbered, we aren’t included in the generally thought of minority groups.…” There’s a very simple reason for this which is conservatives are not a minority group.

    My response to the entire article is this: I feel strongly that our classrooms and campus environments must encourage and allow students to express their points of view free of ridicule and fear. Civil discourse and the exchange of ideas are central to the mission of higher education.

    It can be a character-building experience to march out of sync with those around us. I wonder how Petta is using this experience. What actions could she take to find community on campus if that’s what she’s looking for. Is there a Political Conservatives Club? Why not start one? Would she like to bring a conservative guest speaker to campus? There are likely folks who can help her do that. In advocating for herself, she may shape spaces for others who share her concerns and feelings of isolation.

    I challenge Petta on this: “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.” Perhaps but prove it. Has she made a move to express her conservative values and the campus cracked down on her? It’s possible and maybe I’m just unaware. It’s unacceptable to be laughed at in class or to experience repercussions from an instructor who cannot be as objective as possible. I don’t condone those actions or diminish her experiences, and there are avenues of recourse if students have instructional concerns. I do hope Petta realizes those incidents don’t reflect the whole campus community. If she doesn’t believe the campus walks its talk, then challenge it to do so and call it out if it fails, but until then it’s wisest to refrain from making assumptions about what *might* happen if she were to speak up.

    As an extreme example, remember the white supremacist who wanted to do outreach on campus several years ago? I recall administrators treating him quite fairly in an attempt to balance allowing a dissenting view with protecting others from hate speech and harm. I’m not comparing Petta or other conservatives to that man. I’m noting this as an example of the college’s fair response to someone who was certainly not liberal nor a minority.

    “It can be difficult to express yourself when everyone in the room has a contradicting viewpoint.” Absolutely. This scenario will likely play out in her lifetime more than once. She may come to feel comfortable being the lone voice in a room as she gains more life experience. In fact, our current political climate and Clark College may be providing her the perfect opportunity to develop just that kind of courage.

    • Marley55bob!, thank you for sharing your perspective in this comment thread! I am inline with your perspective and also agree that Clark College strives to accommodate all of its students in an equitable fashion, including political views. I encourage Petta to reach out to several resources on campus: ASCC/Office of Student Life, and the Office of Diversity and Equity. These offices can offer options that can address Ms. Petta’s (and other conservative students) needs. I congratulate Ms. Petta on sharing her experience; this is certainly a conversation that must be had on this campus.

      • Thanks, E.C. I agree with your suggestions to Petta to reach out to supportive resources and people on campus. Offering her perspective can begin a rich dialogue.

        Conversely, I hope she’s open to listening to others about why conservatism at this particular point in time strikes at the heart of a lot of folks, both marginalized and mainstream. It sounds to me like she feels vulnerable, so she put herself on the line by publishing this piece. I hope there’s a return on her efforts, part of which could be sparking a campus conversation on the value of the dissenting voice–on campus the dissenting voice could possibly be considered the conservative voice. As I mentioned above, I don’t at all get the sense that the campus community would be opposed to this.

        [Note to all: I want to apologize for my user name above. I’m Melissa Williams, but when I attempted to post that last comment, for some reason the page asked me to log in (even though I was already logged in), and when I went to type my name in the name field I accidentally typed my password and it posted! I realized it right away and changed my password. Marley Bob was our dear family cat. More than anyone needed to know but I want to explain. At least my photo was there so many of you still knew whom I am.]

  10. I’d like to address Madelyn directly:
    I personally do not agree with you, but I respect your courage in speaking your mind and including your photo. I’d like to encourage you to continue to find ways to speak out, but I also want to challenge you to sit in your discomfort as a person with tremendous privilege. Where you are entitled to your opinions, it is important to acknowledge the difference between feeling othered for your conservative politics and actually being marginalized systemically. You may want to investigate your own internalized oppression as a woman. I think you will find that much of your discomfort comes from your target status in this system of oppression rather than your agent status as a white conservative. Let me be clear, the current administration is conservative making it very difficult for folks to empathize with your opinion. This admininistrations politics are rooted in so many systemically non-dominant individuals oppression that your alliance with it looks and feels to me (as a member of the trans community) like you are endorsing those values. I would love to open up this dialogue with you further and also suggest Women’s Studies 101 to help you with this work. It is clear you value opening up this discourse and I so appreciate that, however problematic your article may come off.
    Here’s a video to help with the empathy piece here:
    https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw

  11. This is one of the condescending things I’ve ever read. How can you sit there professing empathy while completely neglecting to use it yourself.

  12. Thank you for this thoughtfully written column — it’s important to be able to speak out, respectfully, whatever one’s views.

    I do feel sorry for the author’s future relatives/grandchildren, though. They will look back at this and grapple with how their ancestor could have taken a stance towards an administration which history will, no doubt, prove to be one of the worst in America’s history.

  13. Referencing “I do feel sorry for the author’s future relatives …”
    Why do Anonymous people feel the need to attempt to post undignified and speculatory put downs on public sites? Is it simply that they are displaying narrow-mindedness, or is it from a lack of self-esteem, maturity, etc.? The funny thing is that once individuals post degrading remarks about another who is simply stating their individual perspective in a non threatening way, what may have become Anonymous’ audience tunes out.

  14. I’m a liberal and would love nothing more than to have an equal exchange of ideas with conservatives, right-of-center liberals, libertarians..etc.

    It’s hypocritical to define Trump supporters by the worst of Trump’s rhetoric.

    The hostility and religious-like demands that all must adhere to the tenets of intersectionality is borderline totalitarian.

    With it’s classic orthodoxy explaining the human experience, control of language – filtering all speech and dictating the terms; it’s become a religion in the name of social justice.

    It sorts social identities (race,gender,sexual orientation etc) into a ranking system based on a said group’s privilege over the other. Privilege is original sin and is to be acknowledged regularly. Madelyn was ordered to google white privilege by an angry commenter. While a higher ranking, more oppressed, transgender follower challenged her to sit in her discomfort as a tremendously privileged person, but also proselytized.

    If you see the world differently. You’re immoral and need to be converted. If you think that arguments, ideas or your support of a sitting president is indepent of transphobia, white supremacy or any other types of impression; you’re not just wrong, you’re immoral and should remain silent.

    I’m sympathetic to folks in marginalized groups. I think white privilege is a factor in everyday life. People of color, undocumented immigrants and the LGBT community have legitimate concerns with Trump’s agenda. Which is all the more reason to have reasoned,thoughtful discourse that is free of rigid ideology.

    • I find your understanding of intersectionality to lack any real understanding of the term. Seems to me like you heard it in a class and haven’t actually read or seen a talk on the topic. Your argument comes off a lot like reverse racism here. Sympathetic not empathetic, to use your own words.

      • Anonymous // April 28, 2017 at 6:51 pm //

        What, specifically is racist? Or, reverse racist?

        Also, what don’t I understand about intersectonality?

  15. I think a lot of folks who are being critical of this opinion piece are trying to tell you all that they cannot have an open discourse with someone who holds these beliefs because these beliefs are rooted in their safety. These opinions support, whether implicit or explicit, acts of violence against systemically non-dominate groups. I see them trying to challenge those who hold these beliefs to open their minds and hearts to their suffering. I love that empathy video because it really does help me. In order to open that discourse, we must not compare our struggles to those who are marginalized. That shuts off the doors of communication.

  16. So, what would you say about the folks from marginalized groups who voted for Trump? Or how about the white working class in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt who voted for Obama twice? I don’t deny implicit or explicit bias. From both groups. Perhaps racism played a role in PA. Perhaps those Trump voters in marginalized groups are unaware of their own oppression. Who knows? What I do know is painting people with a broad brush and telling those people their human experience based on a social identity does not unite the country. Nor does completely denying the role identity plays in the US. You bring up implicit bias. I’d encourage you to read this New York Times piece about implicit bias:

    http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/01/psychologys-racism-measuring-tool-isnt-up-to-the-job.html

    The creators of the implicit bias test from Harvard admit the measures correlate far too weakly with any real world results. Note this piece is from the liberal NY times as well.

    We need to question both symptoms of oppression and questionable science. Right? I believe implicit biases exist. However we need to make sure we know about the reliability of the psyschological instruments used to diagnose racism.

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