For those members of the Class of 2021 brave enough to call themselves conservative, I am sure this first month has been full of up and downs. You have already completed a month worth of college coursework and you may have already encountered the first of many disastrous prelim seasons. Perhaps you are just now beginning to settle in and consider the role that your political views will have in shaping the rest of your collegiate career. That means understanding that you have now become a minority. So many of you—with your eager, childlike eyes betraying something between anticipation and dread—have already asked me “What is it like to be a conservative on campus?” I don’t think that any of you, even those whose questions I’ve answered, quite understand what it all means yet. Don’t worry, neither did I. It sounds exciting, interesting, and a little bit dangerous. You want to be a part of that cause—the cause you’ve always believed in – but be warned, it is not always fun. It is not always thrilling. It is tiring and sometimes just downright annoying, because you’re a minority now.
Some of you have never been a minority before. Democrats like to paint all conservatives as the stereotypical white straight Christian male; they want to say we’re all the same and demonize those characteristics. Some of you fall into a few or all of those categories. You may have always been a part of the majority, at least in terms of all of the traits that matter to the left—and that’s fine. I’m not blaming you. You just have never been the minority. And on top of that, some of you come from red states and heavily conservative areas, with conservative families.
My point is that for many of you, this is going to be a change.
Being conservative on an aggressively liberal campus is different than being outnumbered by your peers in high school. Trust me, I came from a very liberal high school, and I still wasn’t prepared for Cornell. You are not allowed to speak your thoughts freely in this climate. You will be judged, by peers and faculty alike; you will be ridiculed for your beliefs, told you are wrong, made a mockery of for simply thinking differently; you will have to watch what you say in interviews because you don’t want to face the repercussions of admitting who you are; when you find them, you will have to hold yourself back from embracing that rare Cornellian who also thinks that socialism sucks. You will start to realize that being conservative means carrying around a stigma that you can’t shake. It doesn’t matter what else you do on campus, or what you actually think about individual topics—you’re conservative, and a lot of people on this campus hate that.
I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I find that it’s true. There are TAs who grade conservative students harshly, and professors who make openly anti-conservative statements in the middle of lecture. It’s practically an afterthought to them. Just this week, my professor made an off-hand comment about how global trends are showing right-wing election victories, “unfortunately”. The sheer lack of basic respect and courtesy shown towards conservative students is truly startling.
On another front, conservative faculty can’t afford to speak out on political topics before they secure tenure, because it puts them at risk of losing their jobs. Political censorship is something that liberal professors don’t have to think about, and our campus climate has given them that privilege, as it should. However, these protections simply do not extend to hard-working conservative faculty members.
Similar trends show up in other matters on campus, too. When conservative speakers are brought to campus, they are often shouted down or accused of hate speech by students just for presenting them with ideas that may differ from their own. An attempt to point out the distinct lack of diversity of thought in the faculty last year was dismissed—the liberal answer to our concerns? Sorry, devoting the time and resources to researching ideological diversity would take away from efforts to increase other kinds of diversity that should take priority. Nevermind the already abundant forms of diversity we should be promoting – adding this one to the list is simply asking for too much.
Time and time again, the Cornell community has shown us that we are not welcome, not a part of the status quo. The motto of “any person, any study” only applies to the minorities that they care about – asking for your right to be heard as a conservative member of this community is seen as an unreasonable request; you have enough privilege already.
Don’t get me wrong—this is not a cry for help. I expect no pity. My point is simply that it is unfair. We are a university that prides itself on diversity, but that is a claim that only goes so far. We preach acceptance and intellectual discourse, but it is impossible to expect true conversation when half of the playing field is not adequately represented. Hypocrisy is rampant on Cornell’s campus, and frankly, being conservative here means getting ready to be pissed off.
So, welcome to the minority.