Being a libertarian in college can feel like you’re a Jedi surrounded by a droid army. You’re constantly under attack with only a few friends. Well, this is the way Tom Ciccotta portrayed it in a New York Times op-ed on February 28th.
“Leftists, in an effort to make campuses welcoming — ostensibly, for everyone — end up frequently silencing conservative and libertarian students,” Ciccotta, a senior at Bucknell University, wrote. “They paint any argument that isn’t progressive as immoral, so conservative students can find themselves branded as such. Needless to say, this can be socially isolating.”
Ciccotta is completely sincere in his analysis about life as a libertarian on campus. But is his experience the norm or the exception?
Christina Herrin attended The University of Iowa, one of the most liberal colleges in the state. She was regularly involved in the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and as well as Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in 2015 and 2016. She told Red Alert Politics that there were many instances in which she felt the administration and other students were against her. On one occasion, pro-life chalking they etched was washed away because it was “offensive.” In another instance, Iowa’s YAL chapter was kicked off campus while trying to demonstrate against the war on drugs.
“I agree 100 percent with [Ciccotta’s] article and institutions that promote free speech zones and safe spaces and don’t encourage diversity of thought are doing a great disservice to my generation,” Herrin said. “It is sad to me because even though I don’t agree, the amount I have learned while debating with others has taught me so much about my own argument, and has actually pushed me to be more conservative/liberty minded.”
“It was frustrating and difficult for me, as a student, to have friends who were unwilling to even come listen to Rand Paul speak when we brought him to campus because he was “whatever liberal sound bite” you’d like to insert,” she continued. “It is hard to have people that are so guarded by their walls to even look at another opinion.”
Conner Dunleavy, who attends the University at Albany, also felt that college campuses were biased against libertarian positions. He said that he was lucky because libertarian-leaning organizations like YAL were growing rapidly. However, outside of that, there were very few people willing to be open to his politics.
“Outside of our clubs, however, universities are often political deserts where only the perceived majority opinion is tolerated,” Conner Dunleavy said to RAP. “Naturally it seems conservative students were our allies, outnumbered together and facing the sometimes violent liberal students who tend to try shouting down minority opinions.”
Yet, Ciccotta, Dunleavy, and Herrin’s experiences weren’t universal among prominent libertarians when they were in college.
“I do not feel like my views get “silenced” as much, but there is a lack of “political” diversity in most of the liberal arts majors,” said Vamsi Krishna Pappusetti, a student at Arizona State University. “My YAL chapter does not get protested nor do the faculty keep us from tabling or holding meetings. We try to table out as much as we can and I never really dealt with many hecklers. I cannot say the same for other students though from either TP USA or College Republicans.”
So while most libertarians did feel isolated in a political desert, there were exceptions to the rule. Not every student felt surrounded waiting for Yoda to save them.