By Brett Youtsey
Like many colleges, Willamette is an echo chamber. While most support the idea of having an open dialogue, there is little diversity of opinion.
I knew about Willamette’s reputation and received fair warning from parents to avoid trouble and focus on my education. For the better part of my Willamette experience, a fear of “getting in trouble” has hung over me.
I kept this paranoia without asking myself what the “trouble” actually means. I have never heard of the administration punishing someone for an opinion.
Simply expressing an opinion is not enough to alienate yourself. The majority of students at Willamette are perfectly fine with having friends who have different political views.
The absence of conservative voices on campus does not come from the repression of the left, but a lack of courage and conviction on the right. There is nothing stopping you from speaking your mind, except a handful of frowning faces and quiet whispers.
Conservatives give dirty looks and gossip as well, but liberals manage just fine. The majority of social stigma towards conservatives does not come from being conservative, but from having a hostile victim mentality. Many college conservatives become an edgy caricature of some kind of underground opposition. A victim mentality makes politics the sum of a person’s personality, and no one wants to be friends with a political caricature.
Over my almost three years at Willamette, I have come to realize that I have had a terrible attitude. Ironically, avoiding politics made me more political, because every social interaction is perceived as a risk in a political context.
In my own experience at Willamette, I have made friendships without knowing my political beliefs. It is possible for both sides to get along. Being a member of the community does not mean compromising your beliefs, but it does mean that people come before politics.
Not only does the hostile victim mentality harm conservatives‘ social lives, but also their personal development. In an environment saturated with guest lecturers, protests and activist art, the open-minded conservatives seldom leave their rooms. Though college conservatives pride themselves on being open-minded, they often fall into a permanent state of opposition.
If the right wants create an environment of open dialogue, they need to start by listening to the left. You may not agree with the message, but you can always learn. Willamette is a unique place in this world, and many will never experience any place quite like it again. Refusing to experience all of what Willamette has to offer is selling yourself short.
It’s time for conservatives to stop being passive observers. The path towards an open campus does not lie in combatant opposition, but becoming members of community that transcends politics.