This is what a conservative looks like at Harvard

Printed from:

Before college, I had never really been challenged in my political beliefs. I grew up on the shoreline of Connecticut and went to Catholic school there for fourteen years. In that environment, most of the people I interacted with agreed with me morally and politically, at least on most of the issues that I knew and cared about.

All of that changed, however, when I started my freshman year of college at “The Kremlin on the Charles,” as Harvard has become known. Many of the people that I met were disgusted with conservatism, had misconceptions of what I, as a conservative, might believe, or simply didn’t think that a college-age woman might disagree with modern feminism and liberalism. I was often met with disbelief when I expressed conservative viewpoints.

A popular pre-orientation program for freshmen, called “FUP,” short for First-Year Urban Program, welcomed students to campus with signs reading, “Honk if you hate Reagan too!” While (thankfully) I didn’t participate in that program, I nevertheless quickly learned that here, I would need to be able to defend every last concept of my long-held belief system.

The denigration of conservatism on campus extended from other students, to my courses (one of which was taught by a major architect of ObamaCare), to the Christmas—no, holiday—decorations in the dining hall. During my sophomore year, these decorations included a placemat guide to discussing politics with conservative and potentially backward family at home. I was bombarded with liberalism, and I didn’t know how to stand up against it. I found that what I needed was more education, more speech—I needed to hear the perspectives that I wasn’t getting from my professors and peers. Educating myself on a number of issues allowed me to remember why I am a conservative and develop logical, factual arguments against the pop-culture liberalism that’s so trendy on campus.

RELATED: Harvard reverses course on ‘placemats for social justice

It is unfair and untrue to say that all liberal students are disrespectful to conservatives. I have interacted with a number of people who are willing to listen to the other side, supportive of my involvement with the conservative movement, and genuinely interested in open political discourse on campus. The problem is that this is not true in all circles, potentially because the liberal message often goes unchallenged.

The lack of political and ideological diversity on campus is troubling–this year’s poll of the Class of 2020 by The Harvard Crimson revealed that only thirteen percent of incoming freshmen identify as conservative, while an overwhelming two-thirds of the class reported being left of center. It is not as if Harvard intentionally admits mainly liberal students, but these statistics indicate that Harvard is not really as diverse as many people—or the institution itself—may think it is.

Regardless of whether it is popular, I believe in our Constitution, I believe in personal responsibility, and I believe in defending our freedoms. Because these beliefs have been challenged, I have had to work harder to articulate my thoughts and to find those willing to join me in developing a genuine dialogue.

That’s why I am pleased to join in the Network of enlightened Women’s #ShesConservative campaign, an effort to create a national community of conservative college women through posting stories and photos of students wearing “This Is What A Conservative Looks Like” t-shirts. Launched on September 12, it has already had an impact on my campus. Numerous women have seen the video and social media posts and said that they served as an inspiration to “come out” as conservative to liberal friends and even professors.

By opposing a stereotype that is all too common on college campuses—that successful young women cannot be conservative—we are forging a new path for the conservative movement, a path that appeals to our generation and can open up a new dialogue on what it actually means to be conservative. I look forward to forcing that dialogue to the forefront using the #ShesConservative campaign.

Emily Hall is a member the Class of 2018 and is the secretary of NeW (Network of Enlightened Women) at Harvard University.