At its core, the college campus is a place where the next generation first begins to discover and express its intellectual values, needs, and ideals. To many, it is this aspect of higher education which is most valuable, and universities have for ages played an important role in the development of society at large. It is undoubtedly true that, by and large, the overwhelming collegiate voice has recently resonated with liberal viewpoints, challenging the established order of things and pushing for left-leaning ideals. It is difficult to argue with the observation that this has consistently been to society’s benefit, as the collegiate voice has supported vital progressive movements which, in the hands of conservatism, may never have come to fruition.
This movement has been, to a large extent, concerned with providing all members of society with the ability and opportunity to be heard. Whether standing up for women’s rights, African-American rights, or the rights of the poor, demonstrations, rallies, and collegiate intellectualism have yearned to provide everyone with the ability to achieve and express themselves equally—a noble goal.
As members of a progressive, largely liberal intellectual atmosphere, however, it is easy to neglect certain voices. The conservative voice, represented less significantly in the university setting than in our culture as a whole, is heard much less frequently than its liberal counterpart. This begs the question: Is the conservative collegiate population truly so much less prominent than the liberal, or is the conservative voice simply not accepted as readily as it should be?
Take, for example, the atmosphere on the Boston College campus the morning after the election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency. To many, the general mood of the student body was dismal—professors frequently broached the subject in only the most serious manner, and if students were to express their feelings regarding the subject, it was done so overwhelmingly with a sense of despair.
There is no doubt, nor was there ever, that Trump’s election has negatively affected the lives of minorities and immigrants seeking a place in the United States. Furthermore, his actions have caused unrest in the United States’ international relations and even have brought into question the very foundations of our democratic system; but on that morning, despite the logical political breakdown of BC’s campus, even the reasonable, informed conservative (who perhaps voted in favor of Trump simply for the sake of loyalty to one’s party) would have had a difficult time expressing his or her political opinions. As far as progressive thought is concerned, this is in itself a tragedy.
It is not simply the overwhelming culture of liberalism which hinders the expression of conservative ideals on college campuses. To amplify conservative voices, speakers such as Ben Shapiro have made it their mission to violently and controversially bring conservative ideas to the university setting.
At a recent speech at the University of Connecticut, Shapiro was largely met with the sentiment that UConn was allowing the expression of racist, anti-LGBT ideals. According to Christian Marquez, UConn Class of 2020, “more resentment towards the conservative movement may have emerged” as a result of Shapiro’s presentation. This is certainly a step backward from the existing situation, in which “conservatives on campus...are definitely underrepresented…and can’t properly get their platform across.” Presentations such as those given by Shapiro should be opposed not only for their typically non-progressive ideas, but also for the harm which they do towards allowing for a conservative voice on campus.
Notably, conservatism is not the same as racism. It cannot be equated with minority-silencing opinions, and indeed, few conservatives on college campuses would identify with the worldviews of President Trump or Shapiro. Certainly, it remains the case that every effort should be made to combat tendencies which seek to impede the rights of any demographic of the human race. As progressives, however, it remains our responsibility to allow for the free expression of opinions, liberal or otherwise, which do not infringe upon the rights of others.
Above all, the progressive voice of BC and other dominantly liberal schools should encourage representation of all non-damaging viewpoints—a category within which conservatism, in its most intellectual form, certainly falls.
The ideal political university climate, although perpetually associated with liberalism in large part, will allow for the reasonable treatment and expression of all political viewpoints, including conservatism, so long as these viewpoints do not seek to displace the rights of others. The political, social, and intellectual well-being of society at large depend on it.