Liberal Supremacy at Tulane?
By: Simran Rajani
Liberals-- those on Tulane’s campus and elsewhere in the United States-- have generally advocated for tolerance to prevail in all situations. Justice seems to be the driving force behind many of their policies and campaigns, and yet, in recent years, many conservative, libertarian, or otherwise politically identified students at Tulane have felt that the liberal community on campus has walled out those who don’t agree with them. This phenomena isn’t unique to Tulane’s campus. It’s why small, liberal arts schools can become echo chambers and why we hear people like Tomi Lohren blabbering about “safe spaces” and “liberal snowflakes.” For decades, the United States has been becoming increasingly politically polarized. And following the election of our current president, things have only continued towards a boiling point. Based on a survey conducted by The Rival Tulane, many conservative students on campus have reported feeling cautious when sharing their political beliefs. I also heard from conservative students who have spoken about losing friends, and not having their voice heard. When did we start choosing who we date, hit the LBC with, or befriend based solely on their political alignment?
Political polarization is highly prominent at Tulane. If Tulane is going to be a campus upon which effective political discourse occurs, it’s time we all take responsibility for curating that environment. (Even if it means letting the republicans sit with us at lunch.) Can’t we all just be nice? Respectful?
According to the aforementioned survey conducted as research for this article, 54% of Tulane students identify as politically liberal or democratic, 18% identify as republicans, 22% as independent, and the rest as “other.” For our purposes, we’ll take this to be relatively representative of the Tulane student body’s political demographics. Nearly 60% of this entire sample agreed that Tulane’s Liberal community has the tendency to “overpower and silence opposing views.” Students feel threatened and unheard by peers with differing opinions.
Approximately 62% of survey respondents answered “yes” regarding whether they believed the Liberal community at Tulane was overpowering or silencing of opposing views. One student reports: “I have been in situations where someone liberal tells someone who isn’t [liberal] that their opinion isn’t valid.”
These dynamics of extremism are the heart of the problem. Not only can they lead us towards intolerance regarding our peers and friends, but when anyone on any point in the political spectrum completely shuts down or silences someone who disagrees with them, it leaves no room for any of us to grow or to challenge our ideas about politics and right versus wrong.
Ethan Labi, a Tulane student who identifies as a Republican with some socially liberal views, tells us that he believes he “shouldn’t have to lose friends over [his] political beliefs.” After all, these political beliefs are only a single factor of the complex person that he is. Ethan made the point that “classes and programs at Tulane support liberal views which drowns out conservative students, [creating] waves of discomfort because we know we can’t speak out against it.” Let’s be real. Who can tell him he’s wrong?
Another survey respondent said that they “see ‘conservative hating’ in [her] sociology class all the time. I feel that I have to act like a liberal to not only be accepted but get a good grade in the class.” So, I ask not only liberal students, but also liberal professors at Tulane, what can we do to be better?
When asked about her thoughts regarding Tulane’s political demographics and discourse, Political Science professor Rosalind Cook told me she has “heard that some students don’t feel like the environment allows them to speak freely.” She spoke with regret about this trend in the political climate on campus. However, Professor Cook points out that we need to give Tulane some credit: “Tulane’s climate IS open to different views,” she said. We can see evidence of this in last year’s very public abortion debate.
The anti-abortion, pro-life display put together in March 2017 was sanctioned by Tulane administration. The display consisted of pink and blue flags planted across A-Quad. The flags were supposed to represent aborted children. Many liberal identifying students found this display “aggressive, uncomfortable, and offensive.”
Kayla Roesner, President of the Pro-Life organization at Tulane, told me that their " goal was to be shocking. We understand that this is a painful and unpleasant topic to talk about for many people." However, the pro-life group “apologizes to communities of people who were unable to walk to class on that day, and to those whose mental health was disturbed.” Kayla admitted that this was "in no way [their] intention. [They] were trying to design a new, impactful, but respectful way to have this discussion." Kayla characterizes herself as "conservative leaning." She respects peers who want to challenge her views and present her with facts that she can research further.
When Kayla and I spoke, I took her advice, and probed her about her beliefs regarding abortion. She explained that “pro-life,” to her, is not a synonym of "anti-abortion," and that being pro-life also means giving aid to those with mental health issues and standing up against the death penalty. My own personal use of the term “pro-life” has changed since I interviewed Kayla. While our political beliefs do not align, she is someone who I may not have otherwise sat down with to listen to and learn from.
The aggressive nature of political discourse on Tulane’s campus, displayed during this debate, demands more sensitivity, consideration, and respect from all sides.
So let’s start now, by talking about who we are beyond our political views before we address them. Ethan says that he is “a Jewish-White-Israeli-American before [he is] a Republican.” Kayla is a pro-life, white woman before she is a Republican. I would say “I’m Simran: a journalist, speaker, Hindu, and human rights activist, before I am a Democrat.” Who are you?