Are conservative students marginalized?

Rick Santorum’s most recent grievance with the state of American politics is that colleges deliberately create hostile environments for conservative students.

Santorum stated on the ABC’s program This Week that right-leaning students on college campuses must contend “with an ideology that is forced upon people” who do not agree with the more prevalent left.

Is he not advocating a forced ideology by suggesting that colleges need to change in order to be more open to conservatives? Does that not tamper with the natural status quo at colleges nationwide?

Wendy Fu | Daily Trojan

It is hard to argue that conservatives are not underrepresented among college students — particularly social conservatives. According to a fall 2011 survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 27.6 percent of incoming freshman described themselves as “liberal” while 20.7 percent identified as “conservative.”

Conservative college students might be outnumbered, but they are not marginalized. Is there going to be more liberal sentiment expressed on college campuses? Yes. But the same goes for conservative opinion in a Baptist parish: Given the background and sentiments of the people who comprise that particular community, one would expect the liberal voice to be far less prominent.

And just as Baptist parish members aren’t tripping over one another to embrace the liberal point of view, liberal college students should not be expected to specifically cater to the needs of their conservative peers. We’re all adults here; simply as a function of numbers, the conservatives among us might have a harder time finding political allies, but no one needs to take special care of them.

Moreover, to argue that conservative college students are not allowed to express their opinions or are treated contemptuously by the rest of the student body is to ignore the strong evidence of conservative student input at institutions across the country.

At USC, for example, conservative student organizations, such as the College Republicans and ‘SC Students for Israel, have considerable student and institutional respect.

The only time when conservatives might be marginalized at USC and other colleges is when their principles lead them to a behavior directly at odds with the school’s mission or policies. For example, a staunch social conservative would probably not be permitted to start a USC anti-LGBT club, because discrimination based on sexual orientation is not tolerated on our campus.

In cases such as these, conservatives can raise no complaint. Their enrollment at college implies an agreement to adhere to university policy, even where it might deviate from one’s personal political views.

No person or entity is currently tampering with the political equilibrium at American colleges — and that’s exactly how it should be. Conservatives are just as welcome to express their opinions as liberals, and they do not need special privileges just because they represent the minority view.


Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies. 

Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays. 


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4 replies
  1. Anon
    Anon says:

    One of the reasons I wanted to attend USC was because I was under the impression there is a relatively close 50:50 ratio of conservatives to progressives on this campus and so far that has more or less been my experience. Professors here, especially in philosophy classes, do a good job of not inserting their own beliefs to discussion and instead letting students come to their own conclusions and openly debate their stances on various political or moral issues against eachother. Isn’t that really the most ideal learning environment for students in the classroom? It is rather off-putting when a professor inserts their own left or right leaning opinion because it taints the rest of the discussion this might influence students who have not solidly formed their own beliefs yet in a biased manner.

    That being said, Rick Santorum is an idiot and the GOP need to embrace a more moderate candidate if they plan to lure centrist/left-leaning voters and win this coming November.

  2. Douglas Ernst
    Douglas Ernst says:

    Congratulations, Francesca! As a fellow Trojan, I’d like to be the first to pat you on the back for mastering the art of the red herring. The way you made it seem like belonging to a church was in any way similar to dealing with a liberal professor who creates an atmosphere that stifles debate was masterful. I also like the leap in logic (i.e., because Santorum believes leftist ideology is forced upon conservatives that he would favor some sort of right wing social conservative agenda on the rest of the student body if given the chance).

    Did I want to be treated with kid gloves when I was on campus just under a decade ago? No. In fact, I love a good debate. I do have one request, though: If you’re going to talk about how respected conservative groups on campus are, it’s probably a good idea not to be so sloppy as to link to College Republicans from…South Carolina.

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