Zachariah: Sweeping generalizations silence individual beliefs on campus

Tianna Zachariah

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

Everybody seems to have a strong opinion about everything. One cannot claim to be a feminist without people jumping to the conclusion that all feminists are strong-willed, man-hating, bra-burning, pro-choice murderers. One cannot be a conservative, especially on a college campus, without people thinking they are grossly misinformed about all things politics. One cannot say they are a Christian and expect people not to run away immediately. 


The sweeping generalizations we may have about people and the beliefs they hold are leading us to a time when eventually nobody is going to want to identify as anything anymore. This is an issue because identity is found in these ideological associations, and if the associations dissipate, then people will lose their individuality and forget what they stand for.

In order to prevent this from happening, we as individuals need to be more conscious of the conclusions we draw about people. We as individuals need to be vigilant in creating thoughts that are less erratic and more receptive to the outliers within these extreme classifications. We also must remember to respect the rights those of differing opinions have to free speech. 

Last year, The Conservative Interest Group and College Republicans built a free speech wall out of cardboard boxes in the plaza. Although we do these things with the intent to start conversations and encourage discussion, many times we fail miserably. More times than not, people feel coerced into saying things they do not necessarily believe, or bullied into feeling like they cannot speak their minds at all. Take Grace Christian and other aggressive evangelists on campus, for example.

Students write their messages on the CSU ‘Free Speech Wall.’

Whether they are handing out Bibles, yelling and damning us all to hell, or personally approaching us asking what church we belong to, the majority of us may not enjoy talking to them because they are not being considerate of our beliefs. We might even just claim to be Christian so that they will leave us alone. 

In an article written in the Washington Post, columnist Catherine Rampell explains the shift in collegiate ideologies.

“Today’s students are indeed both more left wing and more openly hostile to free speech than earlier generations of collegians,” Rampell wrote. “Students are most willing to shut down speech they find offensive.”

This not only supports the idea that some students are snowflakes when it comes to different views, but it also acknowledges the fact that we are actively shutting down these opinions. The first choice when dealing with the opposition is this shut down mentality. It’s like the college version of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum and plugging his ears. It’s immature and unacceptable.

Diversity is what makes Colorado State University great. Not only surface level diversity such as age, gender and race, but also deep level diversity, our thoughts, beliefs, religion, values and experiences. We are supposed to be a campus that welcomes this kind of diversity, and yet some voices have gotten so loud they silence any other viewpoint from being heard, individually and collectively.

We cannot let CSU become an environment like this. Evangelists on campus are simply trying to share their beliefs. Because they do it in a way that silence other religions, we tune ourselves out to their viewpoint altogether. Maybe if they didn’t damn us to hell while speaking their truth, we actually could have those open conversations about both beliefs. On the flip side, if we didn’t base all future interactions with Christians on the experiences we have had with the campus evangelists, we would be able to see every person with a fresh set of eyes, and with an open heart. Conversations could, and should happen.

If these generalizations occur, nobody is going to want to identify as a feminist or a Christian or pro-choice or whatever else, knowing the groups they will be associated with. Even if one agrees with the goals of an organization or ideology, the label can deter us from association.  The weight of these labels, expectations and judgments will stifle people’s voice, and stop conversations. People need to Stop yelling, and start talking.


The next time a situation presents itself where viewpoints are being challenged, remember the solution is always more speech, not less. More informed, genuine, and respectful speech is always the answer.  

Tianna Zachariah can be reached at or online at @TZachariah20