News & Politics

Conservative Students Fear Intense Backlash for Talking Politics, Study Finds

Conservative Students Fear Intense Backlash for Talking Politics, Study Finds
Ashton Whitty, left, 21, and Hailey Carlson, right, 24, University of California, Berkeley students, make their feelings known during a press conference held by the Berkeley College Republicans in Sproul Plaza on the Cal campus in Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Dan Honda/East Bay Times via AP)

Conservative students fear the most backlash for sharing their political views, according to a new study conducted by Heterodox Academy, a group of professors working to support viewpoint diversity in academia. “Our preliminary results suggest that students fear discussing racial issues the most and that their greatest concern is criticism from their peers,” writes Sean Stevens, the group’s research director.

According to the study, conservative kids are the most likely to fear that their political views could be criticized as “offensive,” and they are most likely to fear retaliation from professors in the form of lower grades.

Conservative students also indicate the most fear of being reported to the administration for thought-crime, according to the results. This means students don’t just fear social backlash, but administrative punishment, too. Considering that most colleges have mechanisms to sanction wrong-thinkers, students have a valid concern.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE), almost 40 percent of colleges in the U.S have “severely restrictive” speech policies designed to prevent offensive remarks on the basis of race, gender, and class. An expression of conservative views (for example: that illegal immigration poses a serious threat to the country) could easily be considered a violation of policy at many of these schools, if overheard by a liberal student.

Further compounding the problem, more than 200 colleges play host to Bias Response Teams, which actively encourage students to report “hate speech” and “bias incidents” on campus. Since more than 40 percent of these teams include members of campus law enforcement, conservative students also have to fear rebuke from campus security guards and police officers, too.

PJ Media spoke with a few college students to learn how they feel about talking politics on campus. Both conservative and libertarian students agreed that students on their campus could face backlash and ostracism for sharing political opinions.

Liberty Fuchs, a psychology major at Santa Monica City College, told PJ Media that talking politics on campus can be tricky. Fuchs, whose father was from Communist Romania, said she identifies as a libertarian, and that she enjoys sharing many of her political views with her peers on campus.

“I found that most students haven’t even heard libertarian stances,” Fuchs said. “How can they know they disagree with me if they’ve never heard what I think?”

While Fuchs said she is open about her libertarian views, and even goes out of her way to share conservative viewpoints with her peers “in an attempt to humanize the demonized party,” she said she shies away from sharing her thoughts on racial issues.

“When it comes to Black Lives Matter and the question of what really is holding back certain communities that mostly consist of people of color, I stay silent. Even though these issues are very important to me, no one wants to hear a white girl talk about race issues, even if my views are fairly pragmatic.”

James Silberman, who spent two years at Whitworth College, said he faced an extraordinary amount of backlash because of his advocacy work for the unborn.

“Every person with a pro-life conviction must be an activist in whatever way they are able or the killing is not going to stop. That certainly includes me,” he said.

Silberman, who said he leans conservative, was a tireless anti-abortion activist on campus during his time at Whitworth, and even once published an op-ed demanding his school cut ties with Planned Parenthood, much to the ire of his mostly left-wing peers.

While Silberman isn’t afraid of backlash, per se, he told PJ Media that it still is difficult. “My life’s work is to end abortion so I just have to walk toward the fire.”

Christopher Kremer, a political science student at Vassar College, said he only shares his political views with people he can trust. “In the past I’ve been subjected to ostracization after not being careful on that front,” he told PJ Media.

Kremer, who says he leans “more nationalist than globalist” and “more libertarian than authoritarian,” noted that ostracism isn’t the only consequence of sharing the wrong political views at Vassar.

“The administration also frequently takes positions on political issues, generally trending towards the far Left, and you can be reported to the Bias Incident Response Team and disciplined for saying something that’s outside of Vassar’s [range of acceptable discourse].”

Heterodox Academy’s study concluded by noting that while conservative students fear the most backlash for their views, “liberals expressed low levels of fear across all topics and consequences.”

Read Heterodox Academy’s full study here.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.

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