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What It’s Like to be a Republican at an Elite Liberal Arts College

**Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent Her Campus Kenyon as a whole.**

 

I would like to begin my article by introducing myself. I am Margo Minor. I’m a first-year political science major from Williamsburg, Virginia. Many of you may know me through Her Campus or through being a pledge for one of the sororities on campus. You might ask, why is she telling us this…this is irrelevant information. Well, I am deciding to publish my name on this article knowing that I may face ridicule and judgement, because I feel that it is important for a student to come forward as a known figure on campus in order to discuss what it’s like to be a Republican at Kenyon.

Yes, I had the option to publish this article anonymously, but I feel that in order for the Kenyon community to be more politically tolerant, someone had to come forward. That individual is me. The purpose of this article is not to tell students why “I’m right” or who I voted for. Neither are relevant to the topic at hand. Instead, I hope to give a first-hand perspective of what it’s like to be a female Republican on campus. Regardless of how you feel about Republicans, I hope that you can respect the fact that I feel this issue is so great that I’m willing to publish this article.

When I was first organizing this article, I was often told, “You knew you were going to a liberal campus. You chose this.” Yes, this statement is 100% true, and it’s exactly one of the reasons why I chose Kenyon. I want to be around a diverse group of people who are different than I am so that I can learn from them. Diversity is respected, wanted, and encouraged here at Kenyon; however, as much as diversity is preached on campus, political diversity is not accepted. Whenever I say this, the automatic response is, “Not everyone is so narrow-minded,” which is true, it’s not everyone.​However, my first interaction with the administration on this campus was through their display of political intolerance. This occurred during orientation in the college’s presentation on diversity. I originally was excited about this because I thought it was an appropriate choice by the administration to set a tone on campus that would encourage diversity within the Kenyon community. In that presentation, however, a negative statement was said in the presentation regarding the Republican party. Imagine sitting at a presentation in which you hardly know anyone, after you have moved to a new state, your whole world was shaken upside down a day earlier, and this is your first interaction with administration. This certainly did not make me feel welcome, and the fact that no one around me felt that this was wrong made me feel isolated. I could not understand why being accepting of differences between individuals only applied to certain kinds of diversity.

My call for political diversity does not overshadow that of minority groups seeking progress. But yes, certainly, political diversity is an issue that needs to be addressed. I do not believe that the administration should preach their political views. If Republican views were to be stated by our administration I would say the same thing. College is about finding out who you really are, and the administration should not distort this process. By setting the tone that one group is correct and others are not, inherently a climate of political hostility will occur.

In the classroom, I have found myself writing papers with a message that is the complete opposite of how I feel. Yes, there are some professors who want to hear your point of view, regardless of the fact that your opinion may be different. However, my first semester here I took a class in which the professor made it very clear that there was a right stance when writing our paper. Certainly, I could have written my own opinion, but I also have to make the best grades I can. I’m not trying to gamble with my future. Many on campus do not understand what it is like to write a paper, taking a stance that goes against one of the issues you feel to be most important to you, just because you do not want to risk getting a bad grade. When I told one of my peers that this situation had happened to me, she immediately shut me down by saying that no one teaching here is like that. While not all professors are like this, when I have had the experience of going to the writing center and the girl editing my paper asked if my professor was conservative or liberal (because my paper took a conservative stance), these truths cannot be ignored.

On campus, I feel that it is common for students (though certainly not all students) to make negative statements about Republicans: who they are, what they think, and their character. We must remember that just as every Democrat is not the Democratic party, not every Republican is the Republican party. Just because I’m a Republican does not mean that I don’t believe that climate change, the wage gap, and LGBTQIA+ rights are not important issues that need to be addressed. If stereotyping on campus is viewed as wrong, then why immediately after saying that I’m a Republican am I questioned on why I am against these very topics? I feel that we are not practicing what we preach.

If we are taught to not make generalizations, then why have I consistently heard that Republicans are uneducated rednecks? I am a well-educated and intelligent individual, just like every other Kenyon student is. Many do not speak out against such critical generalizations because they feel that these statements would not offend anyone in in the liberal Kenyon community. However, what they do not realize is that allowing these stereotypes to persist creates the assumption that everyone around you is “liberal” and that being liberal is the same thing as being educated. We should not be painting a stigma that those considered “country” have views that can be attributed to their “lack” of education. This implies that those in these groups, like members of my family, are “dumb.” Which is not true. This is a prime example of why the image of the American liberal college student is negative.​For those of you who have reached out and tried to learn about why I am a Republican, it means more than you really know. It’s not easy being in an environment where, at times, you feel out of place. Nearly every day, I have to encounter situations in which my stance is called into question. While in the beginning, feeling like an outsider made me question whether Kenyon was the place for me, over time, I began to recognize how important it is for us to question ourselves. It’s important for an individual to understand both sides of an argument and have this background before making an opinion on an issue.

I feel that being a female Republican at Kenyon has provided me with an uncanny experience when it comes to politics. I have been able to live in both a conservative and liberal environment, and I feel that this has allowed for me to take a more informed stance. While I’ve always had very thick skin, being a Republican here has taught me to have a backbone. I’ve learned that it’s okay to stand alone, even if other people may disagree with you. My point is that this lesson of learning to stand on my own has been instrumental to the further development of my character. Hearing from others who are different than I am has made me grow. But those who are not Republican on campus do not get the unique experience of hearing those with differing political beliefs in the same way that I have. This is because as a campus, at large, we have not allowed for that experience to take place. As a community, we have deprived Kenyon students at large of this experience.

As critical as this article is of the intolerance of political diversity here at Kenyon, it really is an amazing school. Our administration is well-qualified and, to be quite frank, brilliant. I am extremely fortunate to be here with so many other amazing students. There aren’t many schools that have leaders in their field focusing on teaching undergraduate students, rather than research. When my professor is willing to skype with me on the weekend to give me extra help if I need it, although she has two children of her own, that really speaks to the faculty here at Kenyon. Being here is truly a blessing, and I feel extremely fortunate to be in an environment where I am encouraged to be the best that I can be every single day. I hope that as a community, we can move forward in addressing these issues and that we can be more tolerant and accepting of others.

 

Image Credit: Barbara Spencer, Margo Minor

Margo is a Sophmore at Kenyon College. She is from Williamsburg, Virginia where she was born and raised. Margo is an Political Science major with a minor in Religous Studies who is a member of the Epsilon Delta Mu sorority on campus. In her free time you can find her petting dogs on campus, or hanging out with friends.
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