The progressive left, especially those here at LMU, takes great pride in the fact that cities like L.A. represent the ideal safe space for everyone to find acceptance. Unless of course, you're a conservative — then we have a problem.
The small underground of conservative and libertarian individuals at LMU often describe themselves as “closeted conservatives.” They feel that too often they must stay in the shadows. Fear of being ostracized by fellow peers and fear of social exile from friends have left many either too afraid to speak out or feeling politically isolated.
Drew Alcorn, a freshman recording arts major explained the difficulty conservatives face on campus. "One of the biggest issues is that in class, often both professors and students will make anti-conservative thought the accepted 'truth,' not opinion," said Alcorn. "It creates an environment where everyone seems either against you or complacent and when they state it as fact, it gives you a sense that there is no room for debate or different opinions."
Over time, the closeted conservatives have had to adapt, either by being discreet about their political ideology or willing to accept the consequences that come with being outspoken about their political views.
Conservative students feel as though they are in an environment that is challenging for them to express their activism. Adam Duarte, a senior economics major and chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), explained challenges the club "I sometimes do feel constrained to do activism and it almost feels like when we are planning an event, something seems to go wrong, or something seems to change," said Duarte. "It can be frustrating and highly suspect given the nature of our club and mission of the school which inculcates 'social justice'."
Social justice, according to Oxford Dictionary, is defined as "justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society." Often social justice advocates will be at odds with conservative values. Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, while advocates of social justice value the idea of equality of outcome. Any university that makes "social justice" its prescribed mission is from the onset positioning itself to the opposite political spectrum of conservatives.
Duarte mentioned that the administration will give often YAF last minute notices telling them that their meetings or events had been moved or changed.
The average college student's opinion towards basic freedoms that were once seen as universal, like free speech, have changed.
A study released in March of this year by the Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute, found that, "Majorities of students say protecting free speech rights (56%) and promoting a diverse and inclusive society (52%) are extremely important to democracy." However, the study also showed that students tend to favor inclusiveness over free expression. Most of the students surveyed even favored codes that would limit speech.
The majority liberal opinion of student may make it harder for the administration to support conservative activism. As Duarte puts it, "The administration might just feel a cultural pressure that puts them in a bind that sometimes makes them not want to help YAF for fear of upsetting the student populace.”
Duarte is referring to the incident that occurred on the morning of 9/11. That day, the Young Americans for Freedom, under the directive of Duarte, placed posters in St. Robert's Hall that depicted terrorist attacks against the United States that have occurred since 9/11.
However, several students found these posters extremely offensive. Instead of ignoring the posters and continuing on with their day, they decided to take them down, better known as destruction of private property and theft. Around the same time, the Loyolan reported the opinions of those students who found the YAF poster so offensive.
"It's misrepresenting and demonizing the Muslim religion," and "the images represented in the picture target specific groups of people and encourage hate" was the general explanation for their outrage. I find the 'demonizing Muslims' argument quite interesting because the poster never mentioned the attackers' religion. In fact, the closest it came to identifying anything that could be traced back to the Islamic religion, is a masked ISIS fighter standing next to a hostage moments before killing him. Yet, using their logic, CNN would also be guilty of demonizing and supporting hate against Muslims every time they reported a beheading done by ISIS, such as they did back in 2015?
Duarte later received emails from the Student Leadership & Development office demanding the 9/11 posters be taken down. However, the posters had already been torn down, presumably by other students, before YAF had the chance to remove them.
The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute released a 2016 study showing that first-year college students are more willing than any previous generation to be in favor of banning speech they find intolerant. Sensitivity to differing ideas and belief sets has led to the current outrage culture, or overdramatic outrage to the smallest offenses, that is present on college campuses. What comes of this sensitivity is discrimination or outright aggression to those of conservative thought. In fact, you’ll often find a stark contrast between the experience of a Conservative and that of a Liberal at LMU.
The administration supports and provides funding to liberal and social justice events according to members who are involved with empowerment organizations. “I would definitely say that I truly feel the LMU staff and administration has been supportive of not only the feminist club I founded but also a variety of different clubs and events on campus," said Budhwan said. Budhwani describes the culture at LMU as an inclusive environment for all students seeking involvement in social justice organizations.
It is refreshing to hear that one side of the political spectrum is receiving the ability to properly advocate their beliefs here on campus. However, to my liberal peers reading this with frustration let me ask you, do you truly believe that conservatives are treated with the same equal respect as liberals?
Regardless of political ideology, we're all human. And therefore every student has the right to express his or her opinion without fear of intimidation or censorship.
This is the opinion of Phillip Nieto, a freshman political science major from Fresno, California. Tweet comments @LALoyolan, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.