The Case for Conservative Dissent On Campus

Contrary to popular belief, being a conservative on a college campus does not mean hating every conceivable minority group. Conservative students do not hate women, they do not believe the student body should include fewer minority students, and they do not threaten any individual or group’s safety. The essence of being a campus conservative has nothing to do with hate or bigotry and surprisingly little to do with specific national issues. Campus conservatism, in its most basic form, is an attempt to pursue moral truth through a study of tradition and a realist examination of our times.

As a vocal conservative at Dartmouth, I have been the subject of a wide range of criticism from my fellow students. An editorial in The Daily Dartmouth called me entitled, disrespectful, and ignorant in regard to minority issues after I wrote an article that consisted mainly of quotations from radical students. My mere presence at progressive events on campus often elicits everything from mumbled insults to shouted condemnations, and many of my fellow conservative students experience the same thing. Being conservative at Dartmouth is even more difficult for women, who face intense social pressure to conform to progressive standards of morality. Many conservative women choose to keep their opinions a secret lest they be denied entrance into sororities or stereotyped by men. While Dartmouth, as an educational institution, should be a place where intellectual diversity is encouraged, there are professors who actively discourage and even penalize students who disagree with them.

This negative attention is all because conservatives dare to be critical of the way that some of their fellow students comport themselves and because they attempt to engage in real dialogue regarding their opinions and beliefs. When students state that they believe abortion is wrong, they are told that they are threatening women’s bodies. When they criticize affirmative action, they are called white supremacists. If they dare to support Israel, then they are called dirty Jews Zionists. In a world where disagreement is considered an act of hatred, oppression, and even violence, everyone’s intellectual freedom is at stake.

Many students also believe that all conservative students are alike. They ignore both the demographical and ideological diversity of the conservative population at Dartmouth. The Review has had Editors-in-Chief that belong to almost every group considered “oppressed” over its thirty-six-year history. For every plank in the Republic and libertarian platforms, you can find at least one conservative Dartmouth student who disagrees with it.

So, if being a conservative on campus is not about hate or being a straight white male who believes in every last Republican tenant, then what is it about? It means believing so firmly and so truly in the perfection of man that you refuse to accept anything that falls short of excellence in his endeavors. This entails a willingness to criticize man, his beliefs, and his actions. Tradition, the voice of the cumulative wisdom of mankind, should be at the center of this conversation. A study, grounded in reality and divorced from outlandish ideologies of human affairs is the logical next step. The concept of human dignity, supported by religion and Ayn Rand alike (albeit in different forms), should be the foundation of any theory or action. As students, this belief drives us to seek not only personal achievement, but the amelioration of the human condition.

Conservatives students are vocal about their beliefs not because they hate others, but because they want to help others realize their own potential. We hold the free exchange of ideas to be fundamental to the operation of a just society because we respect each and every person. We reject identity politics because we recognize that man is greater than the sum of his individual identities. Human dignity and freedom are inseparable. Conservative students attack the administration because they believe its bloated bureaucracy and constant overreaches into student life limit students’ potential to learn and grow as humans. You could even say that to be a conservative on an American college campus is to rebel against the suffocating acceptance of mediocrity that is the prevailing mindset.                      

Conservatism

“He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.” – G.K. Chesterton