Getting liberal with the word ‘conservative’

By Monique Merrill

College campuses across the country are generally more liberal than not. A 2016 study which looked at faculty voter registration at 40 universities found that the ratio of faculty registered as Democrats versus Republicans was 11.5:1.
Political donations are public and searchable by employer, and it’s no surprise to learn that employees of Western lean left. It’s also no surprise to hear that conservative students can feel alone in their beliefs and isolated from the student body at Western.
At Western, the word ‘conservative’ has a negative connotation. It’s almost a bad word. If it’s not a bad word, it’s at least against the status quo. Maybe that’s why it’s not so popular. ‘Conservative’ has adopted a new meaning, a bad rap in an increasingly polarized political environment.
In general, colleges should make space for those who believe different things. It doesn’t mean liking the beliefs, or agreeing with them (you can probably get away with not respecting the beliefs, too). It can even mean challenging their beliefs.
Now, let me lay down some definitions here: conservative does not inherently mean Trump supporter. Saying someone is conservative should not inherently mean bigoted, racist, homophobic or a climate change denier, all things that Trump embodies.
The words ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ should not instantly condemn someone – their words and actions will do a fine job of that on their own.
It’s not wrong to have views challenged. It’s college. College is like a workshop for the real world, and you should be able to defend your beliefs or know enough about them to engage with someone who doesn’t agree. Being friends with a conservative student isn’t going to nullify your own liberalism, you both could learn a little from each other.

The Western Front Editorial Board is composed of Monique Merrill, Dante Koplowitz-Fleming and Laura Place.

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