For some college conservatives, speaking out isn’t easy

By JR Smith, Studio M staff // 

Sometimes, MTSU student April Carroll feels like it’s difficult to say what she believes — not just in front of fellow classmates, but in front of professors too.

“In college campuses around the nation, it’s extremely hard to be an open conservative,” said Carroll, who’s also the chair of MTSU College Republicans. “Sometimes, professors are even worse than the students.”

While numbers suggest the Democratic party is growing among millennials, many conservative students say they have seen an increase in problems because of their political beliefs.

At the University of Minnesota, Republican students have said they felt like their beliefs have been attacked, among other things. In San Diego, the SDSU College Republicans were wrongly accused of hateful comments after a Muslim woman was assaulted on their campus.

Carroll said that while she hasn’t witnessed this kind of behavior, she understands the consequences of her beliefs.

“Sometimes, being an open conservative can lead to death threats … (and) lower grades on assignments that are extremely important to your graduation and for your education,” Carroll said.

MTSU journalism student and Republican Jacob Wilder says his experiences in the classroom made him consider a different career path.

“One of the reasons that I moved from wanting to be a journalist to being more PR is just because I don’t want to always slant my stories,” Wilder says. “It feels to me like if you go into mainstream media, you’re going to be writing liberal propaganda all the time.”

MTSU College Democrat Vice President Nathan Watkins disagrees. Watkins, a sophomore majoring in political science, said that instead of arguing with each other about political beliefs, the goal should be to create conversation and understanding across party lines.

“You need to go into politics not ready to attack immediately, but ready to strike a deal,” Watkins says. “The goal is compromise every time.”

MTSU political science instructor Kent Syler, who spent time assisting with former State Sen. Bart Gordon’s campaign before becoming a professor, also served as Gordon’s Tennessee chief of staff from 1985 until his retirement in 2011. Syler says he doesn’t allow for much political discussion in his classroom.

“In my classes, I’ve always limited just discussions about politics,” Syler said. “We’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to do, and just digging in more on why we believe what we believe is not, a lot at times, a good way for students to learn.”

Syler and Carroll agree that discussion, in some cases, can be helpful. It’s just all a matter of finding the right balance and the right class to start it.

“If you’re in an English class, you shouldn’t be subjected to hearing about how bad of a president Donald Trump is,” Carroll said.

As for both sides, whether the student is a Republican or Democrat, Syler says the best thing to do in today’s political climate is to be able to think through things.

“You’ve got to have an open mind,” Syler said. “If you think your side is completely right, you’re very wrong.”

JR Smith is a sophomore majoring in Multimedia Journalism and minoring in Secondary Education at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

Many conservative college students feel silenced on their political beliefs by professors and classmates (Clemens V. Vogelsang , Flickr)

 

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.