Experiences of conservatives on college campuses

Logan Mencke

College is often a time of confronting challenges. Learning time management between studying and socializing, working a job to help pay for tuition, and deciding on a major are the most common problems college students deal with.  However, some students have an additional complication to their college experience; holding unpopular conservative beliefs in a predominantly liberal institution.

  A survey conducted by the UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that 35.5 percent of college freshman identify as liberal, and 22.2 percent identity as conservative.  The remaining students claimed to be non-partisan.  Moreover, the survey also researched the voting behavior of millennials and discovered that 55 percent voted for Clinton, while 37 percent voted for Trump.

  In addition to being a minority on a college campus, conservatives have claimed that sometimes they have repressed their opinions whenever a political discussion arises to avoid a possible conflict.  Although hostile incidents involving opposing political ideologies normally happen at large universities, conservatives at Lorain County Community College have kept quiet about their political beliefs.

“Certain adjunct professors are very hesitant about disclosing their views,” said Dr. Jeff Koloze, adjunct professor of English at LCCC. “The number of supporters of President Trump for example, would be remarkable if it were known, but people don’t want to say that for fear of offending people.”

  Koloze, a conservative, has experienced a liberal bias against his pro-life belief first-hand at an educational institution.  “I won’t mention names, but after one search committee at a certain educational institution, a member of the committee, who was a friend of mine, said to me ‘you would’ve been hired if you didn’t write all those right-to-life papers’,” said Koloze.   

   He was faced with making a decision many liberal professors have never had to make.  “I needed a full-time job, but I’m not going to sacrifice my principles,” Koloze said.

Another incident of left-wing bias Koloze recalls had to do with what he considered reverse-discrimination with affirmative-action. While working for a federal agency, Koloze was told he got the job “even though I was white”, he said laughing.

  Like many other English professors, Koloze creates argumentative writing assignments for his students to discuss the pros and cons of certain issues; often controversial topics such as gun control and gender disparity.  During his time teaching, he has noticed that many students are hesitant in addressing the opposing perspective.  “Either because they’ve had faculty in the past who have squelched their expression of their viewpoint, or they’re just fearful of doing so,” said Koloze.

  Some of those students who were hesitant have approached him after class and revealed themselves as conservatives, and how they were thankful for how fairly he addressed each side of an issue. “That’s gratifying, but there’s that hesitation, and for me as a faculty member, that’s very disturbing,” Koloze said.

  Steve Brixie, a conservative student at LCCC, has partaken in discussions about such writing exercises in his English class and recalls a time when a classmate took offence to a professor’s lecture.  “We were talking about the ‘slippery slope’ fallacy, and using gay marriage as an example.  The professor gave the example that people used to say if we let gay people get married, then what’s next?  People are going to want to marry their dog?” explained Brixie.

  After the professor gave his example, Brixie’s classmate reacted in a very prickly manner.  “Instead of trying to understand the context of what the professor was explaining, it turned into a ‘there’s nothing wrong with gay people getting married’ argument,” Brixie said.  “It wasn’t a major issue, but it did snowball out of control and was five minutes of the class wasted discussing this topic that was irrelevant to the example.”

  As the number of conservatives reporting incidents of being shunned or scolded for their ideology on college campuses increase, so does the level of skepticism conservatives have toward the usefulness of a college education.

  A recent poll by the Pew Research Center states that 58 percent of Republicans say that colleges have a negative effect on the nation, and 36 percent say colleges have a positive effect.  For Democrats, nearly 72 percent believe colleges have a positive effect.

  Just two years ago, Republican’s views toward colleges were almost the exact opposite; 54 percent said the effect was positive, while 37 percent said the effect was negative.

  Brixie suspects that the recent events of conservative speakers being denied the opportunity to speak at universities, and the belief that there is a liberal agenda on college campuses is a definite reason for the shift among republicans.  “I think that the social justice warrior mentality and agenda is pushed onto college campuses, and they feel teachers are passing it onto the students,” said Brixie.  “I think conservatives feel college should be a time where you learn the ability to think for yourself, and they feel that students are being indoctrinated.”

  If Republicans are worried about a lack of conservative voices among professors, a study by the Econ Journal Watch confirms their fears; liberal professors outnumber conservative professors nearly 12 to 1.

  Regarding the issue of what colleges should teach, the answer may be upsetting to Republicans who dislike the stereotype of conservatives being close-minded.  It was found that 58 percent of republicans believe the main purpose of colleges is to teach specific skills and knowledge for the workplace; while 28 percent said college should be for personal growth, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. For Democrats, 43 percent said the main purpose was for learning specific skills, and 42 percent for personal growth.

“I disagree strongly that college should only teach specific skills because I think the most important thing you can learn at college is how to be articulate, and no matter what job you’re doing, the ability to convey your thoughts and be able to think freely, learning to be objective are not only valuable workforce skills, but very valuable life skills,” said Brixie.  “That’s a very narrow-minded approach and a very controlling viewpoint.”