Lawrence prides itself on an academic atmosphere in which students’ views are challenged, and broadened as a result. Outside of the academic realm, however, Lawrence’s campus community is largely a liberal echo chamber—a place with a chilling effect on more conservative voices and ideas.
Regardless of one’s political beliefs, this sort of atmosphere poses many problems. If your political views are not challenged, they may lose the nuance that comes with civil political debate. There are aspects of liberalism that are problematic, but often go undiscussed on this campus. When the predominant ideology in a community is not questioned, it runs the risk of becoming dogmatic. Once that happens, those with opposing views are seen as “wrong,” instead of “different.”
To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, Lawrence’s political climate should be a marketplace of ideas, where all ideas can be truly and openly discussed, accepted or rejected. Even though it may feel easier to ignore dissenting opinions, or drive them underground, doing so does not educate or enlighten anyone involved.
Given this sort of political climate on campus, many students were surprised to find that College Republicans has reopened a chapter on this campus. Many liberal students have criticized the decision due to the especially divisive nature of this year’s election cycle. More problematic is the fact that some are arguing that College Republicans has no place on this campus. This statement could not be further from the truth.
College Republicans provides conservative students a vehicle to advocate for causes that are important to them and creates a more welcoming environment for students whose views do not coincide with Lawrence’s status quo. Providing a platform for conservative voices could encourage more students who feel as if they have not been able to voice their opinions to join in political discussions on campus. Our age bracket has very low voter turnout, and getting more students actively involved in politics may help reverse that trend—at least at Lawrence.
Part of a liberal arts education is thinking critically about one’s own beliefs, and learning to evaluate an issue from multiple viewpoints. The campus chapter of College Republicans ensures that Lawrentians are not only doing so in the classroom, but in the political realm as well.