Ben Shapiro was supposed to speak at the University of Minnesota campus in 2018. He was moved to a smaller venue off campus out of fear that his appearance would cause chaos on campus. In other words, he was all but cancelled. I knew this when I chose Minnesota as my university of study. As I attended a welcome weekend for freshmen I repeatedly asked if I would be censored or even discriminated against for my political beliefs. I was assured time and time again, by upper class leaders and faculty that that wouldn’t happen. I was assured that the culture of UMN was inclusive of all, regardless of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, or political ideology. I have come to find the culture anything but inclusive, it is the culture of CANCEL (just like they cancelled Ben Shapiro). This is my story, my experience.
“You’re wasting your vote.” “This is not the time to take a stand.” “You can’t be pro gun and affirm LGBT support, they can’t coexist!” These are words that are constantly thrown at me by my peers at the “welcoming” University of Minnesota campus. I often feel isolated because of my Libertarian views while students on both sides of the political spectrum refuse to take intellectual and thought provoking political risks or consider differing views not aligned in identity blocks.
We are living in a political divisive time (and increasingly so) where Republicans and Democrats can’t even stand to be in the same room together, let alone have friendships, but where do Libertarian college students fit into this? I have yet to find an answer to that. What happened to strength in diverse thought, compromise and the patriot value of discourse?
I’m calling out the hypocrisy of the University of Minnesota’s message of inclusion and diversity of thought. The UMN Admissions’ Diversity webpage states “Here, you’ll be encouraged to think critically, grow intellectually, and challenge the status quo” (Diversity at the University of Minnesota, 2020). Interestingly enough, I have had the opposite experience. I have found myself isolated and outcast by my peers and when I speak up about it all I hear is “you deserve to feel isolated.” This doesn’t sound like the welcoming and inclusive environment that was advertised to me when I applied.
My professors are just as guilty or even worse than my peers. I have to sit in class and constantly hear my professors rip and berate political beliefs that don’t align with their ideology. The worst part is that I can’t even speak up without the fear of losing points or losing “respect”. I have found myself writing political essays with the opposite view that I hold, and funny enough I get high A’s on all of them. At the same time, I have a friend who would not compromise on his beliefs, wrote what he really thought with similar composition quality, and got a significantly lower grade than I did. It’s like being in High School Speech and Debate, you have to be able to argue both sides of the question. I just end up always having to take the position I don’t agree with, in part or in whole. At this University you have to fake it until you make it, I guess. Ironically, there is an Instagram account where students of color are encouraged to write about experiences where professors discriminated against or demeaned them or their views out of prejudice. This is a hefty account, with many many posts calling professors out by name. I ask myself, what if I were to submit a post about the intolerance I endure due to my differing political beliefs? But I already know the answer. My professors and peers would believe that I deserve to feel this way and deserve to feel disenfranchised, simply because my beliefs are somehow ignorant, oppressive, or even evil – which could not be further from the truth. I still believed that we could come together for the greater good. WRONG I WAS. I quickly realized the liberal machine just wants to force me to think their way, fall into line or I will be tagged as oppressive, ignorant, naive or worse as a racist or xenophobe.
Now might be the time when republicans chime in and say “yeah, attack those democrats” and “put them in their place!” Sit down, don’t even get me started on you. I am by no means a Republican, however, I have found that I have not been beat up on by the conservatives on campus. This may be because they also feel isolated by the leftist majority on campus – “misery loves company,” as they say. I have had many conversations with my right leaning friends who love to bash on the University for suppressing their voice and alienating their beliefs. However, when I have political conversations with them and a social policy comes up that they don’t agree with, they are quick to shut me down, refuse to listen to perspective, or tell me I’m going to Hell. The conservatives on campus are just as guilty, but not venomous or vindictive.
As I think about these words from Howard Lavine, a political psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, and reflect on my time at UMN so far. “We take pride in the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our faculty and students, and we strive to create an intellectual environment in which individuals with diverse views, experiences, and cultural backgrounds come together” (Lavine, 2020). I hope this is true in Dr. Lavine’s class as I have never had a class with him, but I cannot find validation in this statement given my college experiences so far. This is unfortunate, because I would love to talk and debate with a variety of political thoughts. They are enjoying “safe space” on campus, and this attitude is spreading to the rest of the country. I will always have to watch my words around people so I don’t offend them. If we aren’t careful, our First Amendment right will be gone for good and collectively we will fall to the perils of groupthink.
I have found a sense of community and belonging within the Liberatarian Party. People are allowed to have different political beliefs within a general framework of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, but members span the conservative-liberal spectrum. I love that I have not yet met anyone with the exact same political ideology as myself and that’s, actually it’s a good thing. Libertarians come together around support for natural rights and freedom for all. It is an ideology that values individual thought with engagement in free and willing transactions all the while with minimal interference from government.
Admissions.tc.umn.edu. 2020. Diversity At The University Of Minnesota. [online] Available at: <https://admissions.tc.umn.edu/diversity/> [Accessed 18 August 2020].
Lavine, H., 2020. Equity & Diversity. [online] College of Liberal Arts | University of Minnesota. Available at: <https://cla.umn.edu/polisci/graduate/equity-diversity-0> [Accessed 18 August 2020].