It’s been about a year since I joined the Claremont Independent staff. I wrote my first article about an America-themed party that students protested heavily a few months before. I had been upset about the protest for quite some time, but I was too nervous to say anything about it for fear of social ostracism. As a result, I kept my opinions to myself for a long while. However, when George Will was disinvited from speaking at Scripps last year, I hit my tipping point. I was fed up with the way non-progressive ideas were shunned at the 5Cs, and decided to finally join the CI.
When I wrote that first article, I was surprised by the response. People had favorable things to say about it on social media, and many people approached me in person to tell me that they appreciated my article and that they had been thinking the same thing. For the most part, this trend has continued throughout my tenure with the CI. When I write an article—whether about Yacht Club, Mudd Goes Madd, Pomona’s Forbes ranking, or anything else—many students voice their support and agreement. This type of reaction was puzzling to me: at a school where 92% of students describe themselves as Democrats, how was it possible that so many of my peers agreed with my relatively right-leaning positions that “the campus left” seemed to so adamantly oppose?
The answer is simple. Political ideologies can be thought of as a bell curve spectrum: some people are more liberal or more conservative than others, but most people fall closest to the middle. On college campuses (perhaps especially so at the 5Cs), there is a bit of extra weight toward the progressive tail, as a sizeable proportion of the student body has a political ideology that is many standard deviations to the left of the mean. By contrast, there are virtually no fringe right-wingers. Aside from perhaps the College Republicans, the CI staff is the most conservative group at any of the schools. And yet, the vast majority of our staff supports gay marriage, abortion, and the legalization of marijuana, in stark contrast to the views that most on the far right hold. As a result, many Democrats on campus find that their moderately liberal views are more similar to the moderately conservative views of our staff than they are to the outrageously liberal views of progressive Social Justice Warriors on the far left, even if we may check different boxes on the 2016 ballot.
Unfortunately, fringe leftists have tremendous power in shaping the climate for discussions on campus. Part of this is because 5C administrations generally cave in to anything these students claim is “offensive,” and that list extends almost infinitely. As we saw recently with the “Mudd Goes Madd” party, for example, the term “Goes Madd” was deemed so offensive to students with mental health disabilities that the party could not be funded. Students are afraid to voice opposition to fringe leftists at the 5Cs because they will inevitably be labeled “racist,” “sexist,” “bigoted,” or some combination thereof, since any disagreement with progressive ideas is immediately dismissed as intolerant.
Contrary to what certain students seem to believe, the Claremont Independent staff consists of some of the most tolerant people at the 5Cs. We see and hear things that we strongly disagree with every single day. Rather than crying “offensive!” or trying to end the conversation, we engage with these opposing views and try to understand them, even when we take issue with them.
The fringe left, on the other hand, has a tough time dealing with opinions it opposes. When Hannah, Taylor, and I posted a picture of the three of us wearing our “Always Right” CI shirts, people called us white supremacists, racists, and sexists, and said things like, “I wish I could shut them [the Claremont Independent] down” and “If you’re trying to convey everything your comments say about how open you are to discourse you need to burn those shirts, or never wear them again.” Nothing in any of our articles is racist or sexist, of course. Which is why, when we asked for instances of racism or sexism in our stories, our detractors came up empty-handed. This sort of rhetoric is antithetical to the goal of tolerance. Rather than trying to slander us with ad hominem attacks, we would prefer that Social Justice Warriors be more open to actually reading and respectfully considering our thoughts—even when they vehemently disagree with us.
Of course, we recognize that there is no shortage of students in Claremont whose opinions differ from the views we typically express in our articles. And we understand that our columns are not going to convert staunch Democrats into staunch Republicans. Our hope is merely that the Claremont Independent will give students who are not especially familiar with conservatism—that is, most students at the 5Cs—a better understanding of why we think the way we think. We hope that our articles will enable students here to be tolerant of conservative opinions, rather than reflexively writing them off as uninformed, insensitive, or evil.
The fringe left has scared many of the more pragmatic Democrats on campus into silence. There are plenty of students at the 5Cs who oppose trigger warnings, current sexual assault adjudication policies, and race-based affirmative action. Radical progressives make a lot of noise, but they do not come close to representing the views of students at the 5Cs as a whole. It’s exciting to see that the silent majority is finally beginning to speak up. Every day, more and more students are speaking out against the increasingly McCarthyesque political correctness movement. What started out as merely trying to remove blatant racism, sexism, and homophobia from polite society has morphed into students trying to turn every tiny misstep into an example of “institutionalized violence.” Many college students who were once proponents of PC culture are no longer able to support what the movement has come to stand for.
Over the past few weeks, as more and more national media outlets have covered our stories, I’ve grown increasingly optimistic about the future of the Claremont Colleges. Several liberal students have joined our staff, and we have received a tremendous amount of support from left-leaning students at all five colleges. These students have told us that they don’t often agree with the viewpoints we express, but they respect our opinions and our willingness to share them. In reality, that level of understanding is all that’s needed for a productive, civil conversation to take place between students who hold different views from one another.