I began my freshman year at CSU in 2014 as a double major in political science and sociology. Coming out of high school, I loved discussing politics and, because I was student body vice president, I was not afraid to voice my opinion in a crowd. When I came into college I was exited to learn and talk about my interests in class, but this quickly changed after taking Sociology 105 with Eileen Connell. This class taught me that Republicans are not popular in the college of liberal arts.
The professor would bring up a lot of controversial topics that I was not afraid to comment on. I would get rude looks and only had two friends in this class, but it never bothered me because I believed whole-heartedly in everything I said. One day in class, we were discussing the Coca-Cola super bowl commercial which sings America the Beautiful in different languages. She asked if anyone saw anything wrong with this ad and I raised my hand and admitted that I could see why people were angry. Although we do not have a national language, the majority of the country speaks English. The ad seems to suggest that immigrants do not need to learn a different language even if they move to the US. What is most ironic is that the symbol of American capitalism, Coca-Cola, produced the ad.
It was in this moment that my life flashed before my eyes. A girl two rows behind me who asked me for help on the exam just a few days earlier shouted out that I was stupid. Hands were flying up and my peers were calling me racist and alluding to the idea that I am xenophobic. The professor did not facilitate a fair class discussion and was arguing alongside anyone who was against me. What seemed like an innocent class discussion turned into a 50 versus one debate.
When class ended I assumed the topic would be tabled, but students followed me on my way to my next class, yelling at me for my opinions. That night in the dining hall, two of my peers came up to me and called me ignorant and stupid and walked away when I tried to defend myself. The experience was so traumatic that I began to cry in the dining hall. After that day I refused to walk to class alone and I begged my boyfriend at the time, who was not enrolled in the course, to sit through lecture with me for the next few weeks. I never spoke a conservative word again in that class. I wish I could say this had been an isolated incident, but this experience taught me early why it is much easier to be a liberal in college.
In my U.S. Government and Politics class, I wrote a paper about why I thought the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was a bad idea. I got an average grade on that paper. Yet when we were required to obtain further research on the matter and turn in a second draft, I decided to flip my lens and turn in a paper raving about the bill. Lo and behold, when I started supporting the liberal bill, my grade improved. Some may argue that I got a better grade because my writing improved, but I did not put in as much work on my second paper as on my first. I did not meet with my teaching assistant before the paper was due, and I just repeated the research I had for the first paper, but flipped my view.
The same thing happened in my comparative Government class. When I started to write papers agreeing with critical theorists like Marx and completely abandoning my conservative opinions, my grades began to improve.
Not only is being a leftist in class much easier, it expands into social settings as well. Most interactions on campus take place outside of the classroom, and I have had the same intolerant experiences.
Since it is an election season, there has been a heavy emphasis on registering to vote and being on one side or the other. Yet the only registration booth I see is covered in democratic candidate signs including Hillary Clinton and Jared Polis. There are post cards with caricatures of Donald Trump on the registration table, and one person was holding a Donald Trump piñata hanging from a noose. This does not send a message that everyone’s vote is important and therefore they should register. This sends the message that your vote is only important if it is for the Democratic Party. Some people may argue that Republicans should set up a table that registers people to vote and they can put their candidates’ signs on the tent. Doing this would require a brave group of people to run that table after the free speech wall put on earlier in October in the plaza was torn down.
Although I do not agree with a lot of liberal views, I have never shouted to another student sharing their opinion that they are stupid or make blanket judgments about them like saying they are racist. Too many conservatives refuse to share their opinions for fear of bad grades and social alienation. It is time students feel comfortable sharing their opinions no matter what their political beliefs are. I wish I could warn my freshman self about the dangers of being a conservative and explain that if you don’t want to be hated, you have to be a liberal.