Campus intolerance has been all over the headlines lately. From the violent riots over Milo Yiannopoulos’ planned talk at the University of California, Berkeley to the protests that injured a professor during Charles Murray’s appearance at Middlebury College. The most recent example was Ann Coulter’s scheduled speech, again at Berkeley, which the university cancelled citing security concerns.
The intolerance on campus is almost entirely focused on conservative and Republican speakers and student groups, something becoming increasingly apparent as the ongoing incidences of suppression of free speech stack up. But this is something any conservative who’s spent much time on a college campus could have easily told you.
Being a conservative at an American university these days is a nerve wracking experience, whether you’re a student or faculty. Many conservatives worry about being “outed” and the repercussions that could follow. There’s already evidence that political beliefs affect hiring practices at universities. Now, a new poll conducted at Dartmouth College confirms that there’s reason for conservatives to be worried on the personal level as well.
When asked whether they would be comfortable having a roommate with opposing political views, 69 percent of Republican students said yes. Among Democrats, on the other hand, only 39 percent said yes. This speaks volumes. It turns out being a conservative really does affect how you are viewed and treated on a university campus.
This resonates with what I often hear from fellow conservatives: while they feel afraid for liberals to know they are conservative, they don’t feel like the reverse is true. Liberals don’t seem worried about letting their political leanings be known. Academia is dominated by progressives, much like the mainstream media and Hollywood, so being liberal can feel like the “norm” while conservatism is an aberration.
But conservatives also tend to accept ideological differences in their peers because it’s part of the core of conservatism to debate ideas. They allow for differences and embrace engagement. Clearly, this is not the case for many liberals—although definitely not all—who approach their political beliefs with a kind of religious fervor, leading them to make moral conclusions when they meet a conservative.
If a conservative finds out a colleague is a liberal, he or she might reflect on the fact that they disagree or think that their colleague is not well-informed. But a liberal is more likely to think a conservative is just a bigot or unintelligent. That’s why conservatives don’t want to be “outed.”
The Dartmouth poll just confirms what so many have already experienced.