In today’s world, politics are more prevalent than ever. They aren’t the same isolated conversations they once were. Instead, they are often used as representative aspects of an entire personality rather than an opinion. Because these opinions are used as a judgment of personality, political views are more polarizing than ever.
In other words, political opinions on college campuses have led to a clique mentality. Instead of a discussion on different points of view, there exists an “us against them” attitude. When one party is the majority on campus, it can lead to the minority party feeling somewhat isolated.
However, libertarian students aren’t fundamentally different from their liberal peers. They go to their classes. They study. They study in groups and use their resources when they need help with writing an essay. Like their more liberal counterparts, their political opinions don’t define their entire personality. At the same time, though, they shouldn’t feel that they have to suppress these opinions just to fit in. After all, if liberal students hold their political views and ideologies as an important message, it’s the right of libertarian students to do the same.
It isn’t the way things are, though. A big part of this, as mentioned, is that we tie political opinions to an entire personality. This leads to fallacies when ideologies are discussed. Instead of debating facts, libertarians often find personal attacks face the expression of their opinions.
Tom Ciccotta gave an excellent example of this in a piece written for The New York Times. He recalls an instance when he, as an economics student, debated the concept of raising the minimum wage to $15. He argued that this would cause certain workers to be priced out of the market. In response, the student he was conversing with didn’t offer a counter-argument. Instead, Ciccotta found himself being accused of not caring about more impoverished portions of the populations.
This is a minor example, but it’s very telling. It shows a lack of empathy for understanding the views of others.
Ciccotta brings up a more severe case later in his piece. He describes going to his dorm after a long day of classes only to see that someone had written that he was a fascist on his door. Because of his political views, he’d been labeled a fascist. Worse still, the university administration didn’t take any action to help prevent similar behavior in the future. The disagreement had turned into a form of harassment with no consequence to who had done it.
Many conservatives and liberals are also concerned at the fact that liberal professors typically outnumber more conservative ones 12 to 1. It leads to the concern that more liberal views are being not only discussed but taught on many college campuses.
Concerns are also raised about colleges barring more conservative guest speakers. This often comes back to the argument that, like Ciccotta, these conservatives are labeled fascists or worse.
At the end of the day, for a democracy to work, all parties must be willing to discuss different perspectives. Compromising are essential for the government to function correctly. While liberals, libertarians, and conservatives don’t have to agree on every topic, they do need to hear one another out. Trying to force one another into silence isn’t a way to forge a way forward.
Colleges should be a place of debate. It is how students form opinions and come up with new ideas. But, true discussion can’t take place if students aren’t allowed or don’t feel comfortable making a case for their views. No matter what stance they take politically, all students need to be taught and able to listen to, consider, and respectively talk about others’ point of view.