When the exit polls for the 2016 election were released after the election, they showed that 55 percent of 18-24-year-olds, 49 percent of college graduates, and 58 percent of postgraduates voted for Hillary Clinton for president. Yet it is important to recognize that this election is far from the first election that college students voted left— in 2012 60 percent and in 2008 66 percent of 18-29-year-olds voted for a Democratic candidate. In nearly every state, college campuses are overwhelmingly populated by liberal-minded students and we have seen a significant rise in politicians who have aligned their platforms to meet the needs of millennials. Over the past ten years, political figures such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders gained the support of millions of college students because they made affordable education, universal healthcare, as well as gender, sexual, and racial equality a national priority. However, although colleges are for the most part predominately liberal, there are a number of collegiates who identify as conservative. And in this election, in particular, many of them are claiming that they are oppressed by “liberal privilege” and they believe that they are marginalized by fellow students and faculty on college campuses.
Back in 2015, The College Fix (a subsidiary of the Student Free Press Association) published an article that listed the 38 ways that left-wing students benefit on college campuses. The author goes on to list the various ways that conservatives experience oppression on liberal college campuses, stating that liberals have the privilege to take courses with politically like-minded professors, read course material that aligns with a liberal point of view, and can speak out in classes or on social media without having their opinions derided. Since then these ideas have continued to swirl around other conservative news sources, such as Lone Conservative and Townhall, and have even made their way onto social media.
On October 13, USA Today brought “liberal privilege” out of the shadows of the alt-right media and gave the growing hashtag mainstream attention. USA Today published this piece under their college blog and relied on a page called Campus Action, who is responsible for popularizing #LiberalPrivilege. Campus Action is a movement that was created by the Leadership Institute to train conservative and libertarian students to stand up for their freedom of speech on college campuses. And while the page and the hashtag may have gone dormant since the third presidential debate, and Campus Action has yet to release a statement in regards to the Trump presidency, their legacy has continued after the president-elect was announced on November 9th.
Over the course of the last week, college students have expressed their outrage over president-elect Trump and have expressed genuine fear for the well-being of minority and LGBT individuals. Protests have been held across the country and many millennials have taken to social media to express their concerns over what a Trump presidency may entail. However, in response to the majority of college students expressing their views about Trump, conservatives in college feel that they are being targeted and oppressed for voting Republican. Just this past week, The College Fix released an article which claimed that a number of college conservatives from around the country have experienced acts of harassment because of their political ideology. They say that “Several students who openly support Donald Trump have become the targets of anger and vitriol from peers furious over the election’s outcome.” And while violence and name calling are not appropriate behavior for anyone regardless of their political leaning—here’s why conservatives who claim that they are oppressed by liberal privilege are wrong.
To put it bluntly, it is hypocritical to ask for empathy without giving any in return. One of the biggest issues with conservative college students claiming to be oppressed by “liberal privilege” is that they are requesting acceptance for their opinions without extending any understanding to the women, minority groups, and LGBT communities who have already been affected by “Trump’s America.” Conservative collegiates are complaining that they don’t feel accepted by their peers and that we should look past Trump’s candid statements about minorities—but they turn a blind eye to the 437 hate crimes (as depicted in the chart released by the Southern Poverty Law Center) that have happened in the week following the election. How can someone possibly claim that they are being oppressed or marginalized when they support a candidate who is the textbook definition of an oppressor?
And as far as college campuses being extremely liberal, it’s time that conservatives realize that this kind of ideology may be for the benefit of someone other than themselves—and there is nothing wrong with that. Many college students come from communities or families where their liberal ideals and sometimes personal identities are shunned. Colleges are designed to be an open and accepting place for everyone (yes, even conservatives) but what conservatives have to understand is how their opinions can have an effect on those around them. The reason that so many students have a problem with Trump as opposed to other Republican candidates is that he has made countless racist, xenophobic, and sexist remarks. Therefore, in the tradition of debating ideas in an academic setting, it is perfectly appropriate that liberal students would question their conservative classmates about why they are compliant of Trump’s bigotry. And then maybe instead of complaining that liberals have privilege on college campuses, these conservative college students will put their own privilege into perspective.
Photos via Campus Action, Twitter, and the Southern Poverty Law Center
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