On a campus as liberal as the University of Oregon, it can be tough to be in a political minority. But are students with conservative views actually marginalized on campus? Some students don’t seem to think so. However, there is more than enough evidence showing that they are.
Do conservative students really face discrimination on campus?
Late last month, a column was published in the Daily Emerald entitled ‘The false narrative of the conservative minority.’ Shortly after, conservative opinion site National Review picked up the column. “While it would be technically accurate to say that conservatives are a minority on, for example, the University of Oregon campus, this narrative is often accompanied with words like ‘discrimination’ and ‘oppression.’ What these people really mean to imply is that they are marginalized,” writes Marks, author of the column. Understandably, people with a conservative mindset didn’t receive this well.
Marks continues, “By referring to themselves as minorities and taking the language reserved for marginalized communities, conservatives are drawing attention away from communities who actually experience discrimination, or prejudiced treatment, and oppression, or ‘unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.’” It is important to note that Marks does not believe that all republicans are the same. That being said, I’d like to shed a little light on some of the things conservatives experience. You be the judge on whether it’s discriminatory or not.
Some students feel intimidated on campus
In my conversations around campus, I’ve spoken with students who haven’t felt free to express their views when the discourse gets political. McKenna Sjoden, a freshman in the Lundquist College of Business and Media/PR/Webmaster for UO College Republicans, is one of these students.
“I often find myself writing from a liberal perspective in fear of getting a lower grade if I wrote how I actually felt,” Sjoden said. “When people find out I’m republican, they act as if they are astonished we even exist on this campus. The university focuses so much on diversity of skin color and culture, that they neglect the value of diversity of thought.” Despite these feelings, Sjoden said she feels generally safe on campus as a conservative and praised the university for keeping protests from getting too out of hand.
Quinn Milionis, UOCR President and studying computer science and economics, feels comfortable offering his opinion in class. “I’ve had GEs disregard conservative positions. Some have been thankful that I’ve spoken up in class, and said they’re happy to have an outspoken conservative because it is so rare,” Milionis said.
“There are radical students who would be happy to see my organization kicked off campus, but in my experience these students are few. Most people simply roll their eyes and walk on. But if one student stops, or even takes a moment to consider that we are rational, just like themselves, then I consider that a victory.” Milionis said that he would like to see more conservative ideas taught in the classroom such as Austrian economic theory in the economics department.
Tabling can be rough at UO
Hannah Ford, a freshman at UO, said, “Usually, the worst that happens tabeling is we get stink eyes, and middle fingers. These individuals didn’t want to have a civil discussion with us; they wanted to berate us. One of them was quite threatening and I wanted him to leave. But I was not in control of the situation so I couldn’t tell him that. It left me with that nasty, sick feeling in your stomach.” Ford said she thought that maybe she would be less likely to be attacked like this because she’s a woman.
In my experience at the table, there have been many students who tell us they’re happy we’re here, but they won’t attend our meetings or be public about their beliefs due to wanting to keep their relationships with others — in some cases, romantic relationships — intact.
When I was tabling for UOCR last year, a group of students came up to the table and called us white supremacists. A friend of mine and I explained that not only were we not white supremacists, we weren’t really even white. We both had one white parent, but my friend’s other parent was Middle Eastern and my other parent is Hispanic. Instantly, we were called liars and angrily harassed for having pale skin. I was further harassed when I had small bout of anxiety due to feeling threatened by the aggression of these students. Although a report was made to the university, it has not been addressed.
UO needs more balanced speakers
Milionis said the university should “bring or encourage and/or fund right-wing groups to bring conservative speakers” as well as “host debates between intellectual on both sides of divisive issues.” This isn’t an unreasonable request. UO often hosts seminars with guest speakers on liberal topics. Why doesn’t the university or its departments host more conservative speakers as well?
In 2016, YAL hosted Milo Yiannopoulos for an interview and Q&A session at UO. UO should host more events like this and not leave it up to student organizations to do all the work, and to give broader political understanding and discourse. For now, the University of Oregon College Republicans and UO College Democrats will be holding their own panel debate on May 23 at 6:00 pm in Straub 145.
President Schill doesn’t serve all students
Between students feeling uncomfortable with expressing themselves in class out of fear of students being bullied for their views, the UO has failed at making all students feel welcome.
President Michael Schill has been known to comfort liberal students when something upsets them. For instance, on November 15, 2016, President Schill wrote an email to the UO community about President Donald Trump’s election. “Indeed, the current political climate and its aftermath have left many members of our community concerned and upset,” writes Schill. “Efforts to divide us based upon the color of our skin, our nationality, our immigration status, our abilities, our diversity of thought, our gender, or our sexual orientation must be called out and stopped.”
He claimed that “every person in this university is important and valued.” When I’m being harassed for my diversity of thought and the color of my skin not matching someone else’s stereotypical imagination of how I should look and vote, I do not feel important nor do I feel valued.
President Schill wants division based on these things to be “called out and stopped?” Why didn’t he say anything to conservative students when there was a mass protest on the night of the election? I received several messages from friends living on campus, telling me that they were scared and they didn’t vote for Trump. They told me not to wear my Trump shirt out of fear that something might happen to me.
Does this sound like a campus where diversity of thought is truly valued, especially when President Schill’s silence about a protest that frightened others who voted similarly is so deafening?
Currently, there are no visible efforts for more conservative speakers to be hosted on campus. There are never any emails from residence life coordinators about the safety of a conservative student when political tensions are high. It’s one thing to write an email and include phrases such as “diversity of thought” to appear inclusive. But if President Schill truly believes in diversity of thought, he would show more support for conservative students too.