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Politics: I Am A Republican Attending A Predominately Liberal University

By October 27, 2015 1
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Before I even begin this article I want to establish one thing: I love my school.

We have a beautiful campus, a diverse student body, phenomenal teachers, great industry connections and are incredibly close to one of the greatest cities in the world, New York City.

I’m so fortunate to go to a college where I can study what I want (a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in economics is no easy feat registration-wise, let me tell you) while feeling confident that I am learning the skills I’ll need to successfully contribute to and pursue a career in a number of fields once I graduate.

With that preface over, I also want to tell any readers who are not in college that no college experience is perfect. For anyone.

No, seriously.

I am incredibly proud to say that I go to a school where I am professionally nurtured and academically challenged. However, I have been exposed to some unexpected challenges throughout my time here – the biggest of which revolves around my political affiliation.

As a rule, I never put my personal politics in any articles I write, and I try to stay away from writing political editorials in particular, because of that. However, I should clarify for the sake of this article that I am in fact a Republican.

I’m by no means hyper-conservative, and I deviate from my party on a number of topics, particularly social issues. In fact, the first thing I tell people when they ask about my political views is that “I’m a Republican, but not a conservative.” While I may not be “super Republican” I am still very proud of how Republican I am.

Now, to say I’m exposed to Politics on a daily basis would definitely be an understatement. In almost every single one of my classes politics is one of the central issues we focus on, and I love it.

What I don’t necessarily love, however, is constantly feeling attacked for where I fall on the political spectrum.

I genuinely love to debate, and I think one of the most important things any voter/citizen must do is expose themselves to opinions that differ from their own. Absolutely nothing gets done when we are too closed-minded to listen to and subsequently work with one another.

But my personal experience has been quite different since getting to college. Rather than engaging in open-minded discussions, I find that I am constantly inundated with people telling me how wrong I am for thinking the way I do. Having few to no people in my classes on “my side” certainly doesn’t help that feeling, but as a New Yorker I’m no stranger to being the only Republican in a room of Democrats.

All in all, I consider myself to be extremely open-minded, and I wish that I could feel as though the same open-mindedness was being reciprocated towards me.

At this point I more often than not choose not to openly voice my opinions in class, and save it instead only for formal debates or pointed discussions. I no longer jump into spontaneous political conversations at school like I used to, because it is honestly exhausting.

The thing is, it wasn’t until very recently that I even noticed that change in my behavior.

Since getting to college I’ve also become less eager to voice my opinions in the classroom itself, especially in the ones that aren’t political science courses. This is concerning to me, not only because it is difficult to refrain from participating in topics I am so passionate about, but also because I have such an interest in and am always advocating for civic engagement.

I firmly believe that the minute we start silencing ourselves is the minute we allow others to begin to silence us as well. However, speaking up is sometimes easier said than done.

Of course, I’ve had the stereotypical experience of professors being extra hard on me because of my views, but these encounters were few and far between. In fact, the majority of the disdain I encounter comes from my fellow students which is even more upsetting.

College is supposed to be a place where you can express your views and expect a mature response. A place where you can interact with people you may have never met otherwise. A place to expose yourself to different points of view and, in turn, truly find yourself. Frankly, all I’ve found is that I’m becoming increasingly jaded when it comes to speaking up.

While I do not expect every person I encounter to have a fully informed and researched argument for their case, I do expect a basic level of respect when I present mine, even if the other party disagrees. I can personally say that I take the time to do my research about any topic before forming an opinion, and it is disheartening when people brush that aside just because they feel differently.

It is extremely difficult to be the only person advocating a certain position to a group of 20 people who, as a collective whole, will lambast you for doing so. As a result my political furor has downgraded and more often than not is never expressed out loud.

That is not to say that I haven’t had some incredibly enlightening conversations with the faculty and with my peers. College has opened my eyes to viewpoints I never even knew existed and I am forever grateful for that. However, there is always that pang of nervous energy whenever an impromptu political discussion begins, and the added pressure of inadvertently becoming the representative for all Republicans doesn’t help, either.

Like I said before, no college experience is ever perfect. So in a world where there will always be people who disagree with you, I promise myself that going forward, I will make a conscious effort to take this as another learning experience and #EmbraceIt instead of being silenced.

(Photo Credit: Flickr User Thelittleone417)