Conservatives on campus feel their voices are sometimes not heard

Alyssa Fairbanks

Credit: Varonin
Credit: Varonin

Judging merely from the jubilation that enveloped the campus on Tuesday, Nov. 4 when President Obama was elected, it is easy to make the assumption that Whitman College is extremely liberal. However, there are conservatives here on campus that struggle to make their voices heard.

Junior Lauren Bolkovatz said that life as a conservative is challenging and she wishes she had more of an opportunity to express her political views.

“I don’t express my views very often because I know that I’ll be shot down, usually very forcefully,” she said. “I’ll get an earful for half an hour about how I’m wrong and how liberals are great.”

Several conservative students contacted for this article wanted to remain anonymous for undisclosed reasons.

In an attempt to investigate the conservative attitude here on campus, the Pioneer sat down with sophomore Keith Hock to discuss his political views and life as a non-liberal at Whitman College.

Pio: Why do you label yourself as a moderate, as opposed to a conservative?

Hock: In my mind, the word conservative is synonymous with the religious right; although, I disagree with that definition. I define myself as moderate because I am not a straight party-line neo-con. I am an economic and foreign policy conservative. Social policy, I am liberal or moderate.

Pio: Do you feel like you, as a conservative, have a voice here on campus?

Hock: I think I have somewhat of a voice.

Pio: Are you outspoken about your political views or do you prefer to remain quiet among the liberals?

Hock: No, I don’t hide it. People know my political views and if they want to discuss it they can. I don’t feel driven away from discussing. I feel like there is a culture of non-acceptance and if I were a little less bold, I would not talk about it.

Pio: Do you feel judged or discriminated against because of your political views?

Hock: I do. For every one person that doesn’t care, there are two or three people that say I like you in spite of this [my political views]. That is a really frustrating thing to deal with.

Pio: How do you get by on such on liberal campus? Or, is it not really an issue?

Hock: It’s not a problem really. I see a dichotomy between how I approach politics and how liberals approach politics. I am not as dedicated to it as they are. Politics doesn’t matter that much to me. It is not an important aspect of who people are to me and I feel like the liberals would assign the opposite. I know that’s not all there is to my friends.

Pio: Why do you think there is a lack of conservatives? Is this just college culture or specifically of liberal arts colleges?

Hock: I feel like a big part of it is college culture. I think part of it is the size of the school. I have friends and cousins that go to big schools that have sizable conservative populations. Youth culture in general is liberal and liberal arts culture especially. Being in a location in the Northwest and having most people coming from Seattle, Portland and California adds to that culture.

Pio: How does the election of President Obama change the climate for college conservatives?

Hock: I would hope it would make it a little more accepting and open. I don’t think this will happen though. Especially given the vilification of John McCain, I don’t think the campus will get more open. There was a lot of smugness and pride upon receiving the election results. I don’t see Obama making a change; I haven’t seen too much reaching across the aisle. I think that he could though.

Pio: Did you know Whitman was such a liberal campus when you decided to come here? Did politics influence your choice of college? If so, why did you choose Whitman?

Hock: Politics didn’t have anything to do with my choice. The politics of a community don’t affect my choice. I care that people think, but not what they think.

Pio: Is there any final comment you want to say to the liberal majority?

Hock: I acknowledge the students here are very smart, but I don’t understand why they can’t take that culture and translate it into respect. There isn’t a lot of respect for different points of view. There is liberal, farther left and wrong. Being a respectful person, I don’t understand that attitude.