Kenyon’s problem of dealing with conservative voices has reared its head again in light of the publication of the first issue of the Campus Constitutional.
The discussion of the publication’s content quickly became less about what was said and more about who said it. Attaching one’s political views to daily interactions increases the cost a student faces for dissenting against campus norms.
If a reader disagrees with me, the first thing they do should not be to look me up on Facebook so that they can point me out to their friends next time they see me in Peirce as “that guy who wrote about conservative voices in the Collegian.” They should email me challenging my view.
Given that most Kenyon students align politically left, myself included, those whose views differ are faced with a choice: tell their friends they voted for Donald Trump and explain why, or suppress their political feelings for fear of social retribution.
The social pressures that cause the suppression of conservative voices is not a new problem, but it is an important one.How can Kenyon embrace the concept of a liberal arts education yet continually shun conservative voices into silence?
The crux of the problem at Kenyon is that conservative students are hesitant to make points in forums because they are cognizant that there will be a personal backlash against them due to the nature of their opinion. Furthermore, they know that very few students will constructively engage in response.
The Campus Constitutional seemingly has the potential to help empower conservative voices on this campus as a forum in which students who hold minority views can articulate what they feel and why. Yet if it only serves to further the divide, I would not feel compelled to write this piece.
The Campus Constitutional squanders a prime opportunity to start a legitimate dialogue about what it is like to be a conservative at Kenyon by seemingly intentionally provoking students who disagree. An example is the use of the headline “Male Privilege Does Not Exist And It’s A Dangerous Concept To Believe In.” Without even beginning to read the article a student who disagrees will feel attacked. This does not promote intellectual debate. Rhetoric like this only drives people further apart.
This is not a Kenyon-specific problem. Kenyon is a microcosm of a national trend. How can our democracy function when people feel that they cannot socially interact with a supporter of an opposing party?
So what do we about this at Kenyon? The solution is twofold: First, we should work to foster an intellectual environment in which conservative voices feel they can raise legitimate points without fear of social exclusion, and second, all debates should be grounded in a mutual respect; this cannot be achieved in a piece that has the sole purpose of angering those who disagree.
I am sick and tired of overhearing “they are nice, but they voted for Trump so I would not want to hang out with them” in passing. As a community, we should challenge ourselves to be better. People with all viewpoints should feel empowered to respectfully voice their opinions without fear of being judged.
The authors of Campus Constitutional write that “despite the inauthentic ‘calls’ for conservatives to speak there is no climate welcome to our views.” Even though I disagree with the vast majority of what they wrote, I agree with that.
I hope our community can agree to welcome conservative views not as a personal affront but as an intellectual challenge. Only by doing this can we begin to heal an ideologically fractured community.
Jake Barnett ’20 is a political science and economics major from McLean, Va. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.