This year student organizations will invite conservative speakers to campus, offering much-needed opposing views to our stifled intellectual culture. Undoubtedly, many so-called open-minded people on the left will treat these speakers with derision and hostility.
Last year, when Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield came to a Pierson College Master’s Tea to talk about masculinity, some people came dressed in drag simply to provoke. Others asked ridiculous questions meant to denigrate Mansfield’s opinion rather than address it.
Norman Podhoretz, the former editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine, refused to speak at Yale two years ago because he expected that he would be received disrespectfully by the student body. (Instead, he chose to speak at the Yale Club in New York.) This is not even to mention the reception of many True Love Week speakers last spring. The list goes on and on.
This hostility is a singularly liberal phenomenon. I have heard no reports of conservative students staging protests inside (or outside, for that matter) Sex Week seminars on blowjobs or masturbation. Nor have I heard of conservatives insulting or disrupting lecturers who advocate the fluidity of gender and the necessity of a gender-neutral social culture. Liberal tolerance seems to end when conservatives assert their opinion, as many liberals so often choose protest over peaceful conversation.
Here at Yale, where civil discussion of opposing opinions is expected, the effects of disrespectful combativeness are particularly harmful. Conservatives are not only the minority on college campuses, but their opinions are too often disregarded rather than engaged. As such, liberals are rarely challenged, and they become complacent in their opinions and assured they are righteously correct.
Many liberals do not understand opposition as anything other than malevolence. So much of liberal ideology is based on intentions, and the left certainly means well, but liberals think good intentions alone constitute goodness. Liberals thus often equate disagreement with their policies with malicious intent. For example, those who dislike President Obama, they say, do so not because of politics but rather racism. Favoring traditional gender roles is sexism. Calling for tax cuts is greed and hatred of the poor. In all these instances, liberals attack the ethics or character of the opposition as opposed to the content of their opinions.
Gay marriage provides an even more contentious example. When many conservatives promote traditional marriage, the liberal sees fear or hatred of homosexuals at play. A conservative cannot advocate traditional marriage without immediately being labeled a bigot. No other explanation for their opinion is sought nor deemed plausible.
Ironically, and contrary to common opinion, it is liberals who have such an elevated view of their opinions that they seek to socially castigate dissenters. This leaves them in an intellectual vacuum.
Yale and its mission to provide a well-rounded education cannot exist properly with such closed-mindedness. When students do not attempt to understand conservatism, they do not tolerate conservatism and, as a result, they disrespect conservatism and conservatives as well.
This is not to say there are not exceptions. I have had many wonderful, respectful conversations with liberals with whom I disagree. However, these isolated incidents don’t change what seems like a common liberal approach to conservatism. Overall, liberals remain ignorant and hateful of conservative opinions.
So as this new school year comes to a start I ask that liberals — especially the freshmen, who have three more years than I do to make this school a better place — at least try to engage with opposing viewpoints, particularly those of conservatives. Engage, even if others’ views are disagreeable.
As many of you in the freshman class will soon discover, Yale prides itself in diversity despite existing as a liberal echo chamber. This does not have to be so. Students truly have the ability to change Yale for the better, if only by respecting conservatives as reasonable peers and allowing dialogue responsibly to take place. It is our duty as scholars at Yale.
Alec Torres is a senior in Trumbull College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.