Higher Education: No Safe Spaces for Conservatives


It would appear that higher education has become a Politically Correct caricature of itself. Yet for an increasing number of students, this is no laughing matter, for academia’s ceaseless drift toward the abyss of far-left ideology has been accompanied by an increase in threats of violence. College campuses in many places have become dangerous for certain kinds of students. Specifically, they have become dangerous for conservative students.

The College Fix (TCF) is a student-run publication. It is also a national treasure. Its writers deserve praise for drawing the public’s attention to the outrages that pass for higher education today. Parents should be particularly appreciative to learn that those of their children who they plan on sending to university could be harassed and threatened with violence for not endorsing the ideological groupthink that substitutes for education in the contemporary academic world.

At St. Olaf College, a Lutheran institution in Minnesota, Republican and conservative-leaning students are overwhelmingly outnumbered. In November, 80% of its student body voted for Hillary Clinton. Only 10% voted for President Donald Trump.

Yet there are no “safe spaces” for this minority.

TCF quotes the school’s student newspaper, the Manitou Messenger. The latter interviewed 12 Trump supporting students, virtually “all” of whom admitted to feeling that the campus environment rendered it impossible for them to discuss—civilly, rationally discuss—politics with their peers. But it is even worse than this, given that “several” of these students had been “violently threatened because of their political beliefs [.]”

On the night of the election, the President of the College Republicans, Emily Schaller, was threatened by another student and called a “f**king moron.” In the days following Trump’s victory, she overheard groups of students promising aloud “to hurt the next conservative or Republican they saw.”

The Vice President of the College Republicans, another young lady, Kathryn Hinderaker, encountered the same phenomenon. She told her school paper that “one of the hardest things” occurred the day after the presidential election. It was at that time that, upon entering a campus building, she heard someone shout assurances to all Trump voters that they had “better be f**king scared!” To this, all who were present “clapped and applauded.”

“Obviously,” she concludes, “it didn’t feel super safe.”

It doesn’t take an especially creative intellect to imagine what the reaction of the whole college community would have been had it not been Republican and Trump-supporting students, but, say, immigrant or black students that had been threatened in this manner. Nor does it require much prescience to know that had the female students that were victimized been leftist feminists, the reaction to their victimization would have been far different from what it has been.

One student—another female—remarked that such was the hostility of the environment in her classes toward “conservatives” that she left school for a time. By the end of the fall semester, the on-line harassment that she endured drove her to transfer to another institution altogether.
In February, someone “posted an unsolicited photo of a group of students that supposedly included Trump supporters and encouraged fellow students to ‘remember their faces.’”

Ironically, St. Olaf College’s chapter of the College Republicans did not endorse Trump during the election season. However, its members are still targeted. Conservative students will not express their views in class for fear of being ostracized or injured by their peers and penalized by their instructors.
For some students, the toxicity of the campus environment has gotten to be too much. For about 20 minutes at the beginning of every class period, said one female pupil, her professor would mock Trump. This student said that she planned on transferring to another institution next year.

While some of their students were being mocked, intimidated, and threatened for their viewpoints, the administrators and faculty of St. Olaf College extended their collective arms in welcoming the one-time Communist Party USA presidential candidate Angela Davis to speak on campus.

Time doesn’t permit it, but, tragically, it wouldn’t require much effort to show that St. Olaf College is not anomalous in these respects. Conservative students are threatened, bullied, intimidated, and, on occasion, assaulted at colleges and universities around the country. Worse, it is not always just their fellow students who target them, but professors as well.

In the meantime, and for all of their hysteria concerning the need for “cry ins,” safe spaces, and the like, radical leftist students and faculty speak and act with impunity.

Other examples of this educational malpractice, intolerance, and outright oppression will be revisited in this column in the near future. Everyone who cares about protecting the victims of injustice while salvaging what can be salvaged of higher education in America needs to both inform themselves of this crisis and work diligently to resolve it.

Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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