We are bigots. We may not be as homophobic, or racist, or transphobic, or sexist, or Islamophobic, or anti-Semitic as the majority of colleges in the United States, but nevertheless we are bigots. We may want to believe that we have overcome the great hurdles of prejudice to create a tolerant and accepting community, but we have not. That is because, unless you’re left-of-center, you’re not welcome at Vassar.
When discussing conservatism, we have created an “us” versus “them” mentality. We view student organizations such as the Vassar Conservative Libertarian Union with suspicion and, occasionally, open hostility. We turn even the most moderate Republican into a Ben Carson or a Ted Cruz. We fail to distinguish between conservatives and extremists. We fail to look beyond the ideological divide to find common ground.
We view the VCLU in particular as a threat to our safety, even though they are an uninfluential minority. They hold no clout with the VSA, were unable to avoid their own suspension, and even after they showed that they were not informed about said suspension until well after the deadline to appeal had expired, they were unable to garner enough votes to suspend the bylaws so that they could go before the judicial board, as is their right.
And yet, there are certain Vassar students who believe that the mere existence of conservatives on campus is a threat to their very well-being. They associate today’s VCLU with the worst of the Republican Party. We make the conscious decision as a community to treat all Republicans as if they were birthers or national socialists.
This perception does not match the reality of this year’s leadership within the Vassar Conservative Libertarian Union. The VCLU does not openly condemn homosexuals. It does not bomb abortion clinics. It does not pray for death of Supreme Court justices. It doesn’t question President Obama’s birth certificate.
It merely exists, and its members just discuss conservative issues and spread their beliefs. We hate them not because they are evil or ignorant or bigoted, but because they challenge our perception of Vassar being a unanimously liberal space.
I would challenge the idea that we should seek universal liberalism on campus. A politically homogeneous environment to the point where conservatives fear the expression of their beliefs is not conducive to an education. We are here to expand our horizons, not to have it confirmed to us that everything we ever knew is true.
Firstly, Vassar must learn to respect conservatives as people. We don’t need to respect others’ ideals, but we need to acknowledge that everyone has a right to their own point of view. We don’t need to respect their opinions, but we need to respect them as people.
Secondly, Vassar must recognize the importance of dissent. At present, dissent is limited so that it still fits within our collective understanding of right and wrong.
Obviously, we do not need to tolerate outright bigotry. A person who says that homosexuals deserve the death penalty is a lunatic, and should be ostracized. Outside of a person directly calling for the harming of others, however, we ought to show a certain level of courtesy. We learn more by discussing differing points of view than by dismissing dissent as bigotry.
Thirdly, Vassar must acknowledge and respect that the VCLU has as much a right to exist as the Vassar Democrats. This means that we have to understand that it still has a right to express its points of view. We need to acknowledge that it is an important element of life here. and that not everyone is a progressive.
This is not just a Vassar problem. It is occurring at colleges throughout the United States. When progressives gain an overwhelming majority in any community, it is followed with an assumption that everyone starts with the same ideological and political philosophy. This leads to a society where progressivism is privileged. And, frankly, I think it’s time Vassar checked its privilege.