For those who could not attend Activities Fair, it was a successful gathering of diverse Lawrentians, with varying interests, sharing their ideas and work. However, unlike most years, this year’s event featured a group that tends to cause controversy on campus: Republicans.
Controversy around such groups arose on campus due to the high number of liberal and progressive students that we have. This disparity in ideology has left conservative students out of many conversations and has even resulted in harassment from other students. Ironically, the “Lawrence Difference” that promotes inclusion and diversity within the school does not seem to apply to conservatives. If Lawrence is to become a more open and accepting place, we must learn to respect ideologies outside of our own. The mocking, dismissiveness, and even harassment towards conservative students must cease.
In case you do not know, the group known as Lawrence University College Republicans is not a returning club on campus. In fact, they are a bit of an anomaly. Similar conservative-oriented student groups have previously existed on campus. Yet they tend to disappear partly due to a lack of interest from the student body. However, as some conservative students that I know have pointed out, it is a sense of alienation that has kept conservative students from being able to meet in an organized fashion.
You might think that you are not guilty of creating such feelings of estrangement, but most of us probably are. Name calling, a fellow student mentioned to me, is common when someone with a conservative ideology voices their opinion—even within a classroom. Conservatives are often labeled as racist or intolerant by people who do not actually know them personally. What is more, students who are open about their ideology often face harassment on social media, or become victims of mischaracterizing rumors. This “word on the street” negativity, ultimately causes conservatives to hide their view points. Something that goes against the root of education at Lawrence.
As someone who is openly progressive, I have definitely seen and perpetrated some of these divisive actions. But such actions should not go unnoticed anymore. We should, as a student body, hold anyone who allows these types of behaviors accountable. No conversation about diversity, empowerment, or inclusion can occur, if we attack one another based on the ideologies that we have.
That being said, I am not discouraging anyone from challenging each others’ beliefs. The progress that has been made this far at Lawrence, and any more to come, arose from students’ ability to challenge those who had divergent opinions. Whether conservative or liberal, everyone has positive change to offer on campus. But without constructive discourse, we exclude some of this progress. Let’s keep attacking each others’ viewpoints, but let’s refrain from personally attacking each other.
I encourage all readers who have felt alienated from political dialogue to continue to push for representation on this campus. Being an educated and open-minded individual means not assuming that people are intolerant based on their ideology. I do not believe that clubs like LU’s College Republicans are pursuing an agenda of intolerance or divisiveness, and I encourage them to continue to seek campus recognition. Yet, even if this is not the case, our culture is built around accepting those who are unlike us. Even if that means having to tolerate the intolerant.