As evidenced by recent controversies over Halloween costumes and the debate over renaming Calhoun College, Yalies are not afraid to stand up for their beliefs. This sense of passion and conviction was undoubtedly a major draw for the class of 2020.
However, if my brief interactions with my future classmates are any indication, the overwhelming majority of views on campus skew heavily toward one side of the ideological spectrum: the liberal one.
Allow me to introduce some personal context. I am Asian-American, identify as LGBTQ+, and lean to the right on a number of political and economic issues. Over the course of the 2016 elections, I changed my political preferences repeatedly, finally casting a ballot for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. His platform most closely represents my beliefs as a fiscal conservative and social moderate. I realize, of course, that my decision to support Johnson’s campaign is not one shared by many of my fellow students.
Faced with other alluring college options, I ultimately decided to matriculate to Yale because I believed Yalies would tolerate a wide variety of viewpoints. Indeed, many people I’ve met so far have lived up to this promise. Yet, I find myself somewhat disillusioned by the events that unfolded over the previous year. I knew Yale would expose me to many beliefs that differed from mine and welcome this intellectual diversity.
But I worry about the disrespect shown towards conservative Yalies last year, such as when a protestor allegedly spit on a student exiting the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program’s conference on free speech, or when former Head of College Christakis was shouted down in the Silliman courtyard. On the popular Facebook group Overheard at Yale, those who express conservative sentiments are berated for their beliefs viand subject to ad hominem attacks. Some students have even refused to converse with others who do not share their views.
This was not the Yale I envisioned.
Belonging to several identity groups on campus puts me in an odd position. I am unsure how to navigate these different circles and can’t help but feel that I may eventually face some of the same struggles that my conservative friends — particularly conservative minorities — have had to deal with. I find it difficult to convey my political views in their entirety, as I must hold back some of my more controversial beliefs so as not to risk losing friends. Among the LGBTQ+ community, I worry about estranging myself from those with whom I have already formed connections. In a dating pool that is already limited, seeing as I don’t fall into cisgender, heterosexual conventions, I am compelled to wonder if being openly conservative will further diminish my romantic opportunities.
My hope is that my unorthodox amalgam of identities will not significantly inhibit my ability to make genuine connections and thrive at Yale. As I begin a new chapter of my life, I’d like to deliver a message of openness and understanding to my fellow Yalies. It is of the utmost importance that discourse on campus be conducted with respect and cordiality, irrespective of ideology and identity. Lay down judgment and preconceived notions; take time to get to know someone. Be adamant in your convictions, but remain unchained by dogma. Most of all, remember that political views do not determine character — your new best friend could be sitting on the other side of the aisle.
Stephen Lee is a freshman in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org