By Rebecca Gonzales
As I sat in my Monday morning policy course, I listened to my professor say, “Conservative students have complained about being uncomfortable on a campus as liberal as AU, well then WHY ARE YOU HERE?” Dear Professor, believe me I have already asked myself that question.
If you are a student at American University, there is no doubt that you have heard professors spew hatred for the political Right. Yep, that’s us, sitting silently in class while our professors push liberal- and often socialist- agendas on the next generation of lawmakers, doctors, teachers, diplomats, and Starbucks baristas.
Conservative reader, I am writing to comfort you; you are not alone. This fall so many conservative students experienced discrimination in the classroom that a team of faculty members met with these students to discuss their experiences. Consequently, a panel of our peers spoke about the marginalization of conservative students at the Ann Ferren faculty conference this January. One of those students, the president of American University College Republicans, Nick Hunt presented the honest numbers to some of our favorite professors.
Nick has dedicated his School of Public Affairs Leadership Program studies to the marginalization of conservative voices in the classroom. In Nick’s studies, he reported that a 2013 survey, by Kendall Karr, of 182 American University students revealed that 15.4 percent of participants identified as conservative. This study also revealed that 85.8 percent felt that they were “somewhat politically active” or higher. These results are not completely shocking. American University is known as the nation’s most politically active university.
Also not shockingly, this study revealed that 98.4 percent of those participants had witnessed “a student make an insensitive or disparaging remark about another student’s political beliefs.” At an institution like American where political discussions are inevitable, there are bound to be heated conversations and rude remarks.
However, the line must be drawn when professors use the classroom as their own personal means to limit intellectual diversity. Kendall Karr’s study found that 79.1 percent of participants said they had “heard a university faculty member make an insensitive or disparaging remark about a student’s political beliefs.” Karr’s study shows that on average, the vast majority of American University students have witnessed biased professors abusing their power to criticize conservative students. That number doesn’t even represent how many times those students have heard professors doing it.
This behavior is a trend for professors across the country. The university campus is one of the hardest places to be a conservative individual. The biased and hostile American University classroom is not a conducive environment for learning or intellectual diversity. The classroom attitude is conformity or silence. However, the administration at American University has recognized the hindrance that this behavior places on students’ educational growth. Ultimately, conservative students must speak up and work with their professors to change the narrative on campus. The actions at the Ann Ferren faculty conference show that faculty members are willing to work with us. Be brave because you are not alone. Young, intelligent, Right-leaning students are the liberal professor’s worst nightmare.