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Why Conservative College Kids Should Be a Protected Class

When I was a sophomore at Barnard College, a women’s college in NYC under the Columbia University umbrella, I applied to become a columnist with the Columbia Daily Spectator. During the interview, the editors asked me what I hoped to write about. As the first person in my family to graduate from high school, I knew how to play this card. “Social inequality and labor issues,” I said, invoking the spirit of Columbia’s longstanding social justice tradition. Needless to say, I got the position.

But instead of focusing on social justice in the traditional way, I focused on something else — the dangers of feminism, misleading sexual assault statistics, and the lack of due process for men in campus rape trials. I wrote columns arguing that Columbia should offer a course in men’s studies, and that students shouldn’t report microaggressions. Sure, women face problems in society, but men do too. Shouldn’t we care about them?

The backlash was swift. Perhaps I went into it too naively. After all, I was a student at a women’s college, a hotbed of militant feminism. I should have expected it. But after a while, the angry comments and diatribes students emailed me gave way into something more pernicious — being targeted on campus.

Students started yelling, quite literally, when they saw me on campus. One student followed me around twice in the local grocery store, trying to accost me. They’d come up to me at my campus desk job, demanding an apology for what I’d written. One student would take pictures of me when she saw me at the library. Then, the death threats came in. Not from strangers on the internet, but from fellow students.

Not wanting to appeal to authority, I didn’t report them. I sucked up my pride. After all, harassment based on political ideology isn’t covered in my school’s non-discrimination clause, and I worried that reporting the harassment could backfire. What if students decided to file a Title IX complaint against me for what I wrote?

Indeed, I had already been familiar with the case of Laura Kipnis, who suffered a Title IX complaint after writing an essay on sexual paranoia for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Some students invoked the specter of a Title IX complaint, threatening to report me for creating a “hostile environment” on campus.

Needless to say, my experiences aren’t unique, at least for outspoken conservative and libertarian students on campus. As the rates of targeted harassment of gay and transgender students has fallen, students who don’t conform to left-liberal ideology face harassment at rising rates. When I first started getting death threats, I thought I was alone. It wasn’t until I started meeting other outspoken conservative students that I realized that the experience was de rigueur.