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Mar 06 2017
by Anna DiGiacomo

College Libertarians React to Political Intolerance on Campus

By Anna DiGiacomo - Mar 06 2017

College campuses have a long-standing tradition of challenging students’ ideals. Exposing students to diverse ideologies and encouraging them to take intellectual stances are all ways colleges help students grow. As such, colleges advocate for diversity and inspire students to speak their minds on controversial issues...or do they?

In a recent New York Times article by Tom Ciccotta, he describes college libertarians as isolated and social outcasts. Ciccotta claims that leftists, in their obsessive desire to make campuses more inclusive, have frequently silenced conservative and libertarian students. All non-progressive arguments are seen as immoral, and those that support them are socially branded.

This is hardly a new idea as the true nature of free speech on college campuses has been a hot issue in the media following the protests against Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California at Berkeley. Additionally, libertarian and conservative animosity was a key topic of debate between students at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

However, what do real college libertarians have to say about the issue?

Scott Ernest, a libertarian at Montana State University, doesn’t believe the issue is as prominent as the media portrays.

"I think both sides share equally in the issue at hand on college campuses."

As Scott explains, liberals protest things that offend them and are then offended by pretty much everything. Likewise, conservatives use free speech as a way to troll liberals and upset them. This, Scott describes, is how you get figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos in the media.

  • "I tend to consider him a free speech leech. His goal isn't to further free speech in any way, it is to extend his 15 minutes of fame as far as he can while being a completely horrible person."

College groups that invite inflammatory people such as Milo on campus are just trolling the other side, Scott says. They’re not doing it for intellectual discourse, they just want liberals to over-react so they can do it again in the future.

As for libertarians on campus, Scott doesn’t believe libertarians have much trouble sharing their ideas, especially compared to “the pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-libertarian conservative movement." This is because libertarians don’t seek to aggravate those they disagree with just because they can.

  • "Maybe it’s because I’m a nontraditional student, Generation X rather than a Millennial. I’m too old for this childish nonsense anymore."

Amanda Keller, a sophomore libertarian at Appalachian State University, adopts a similar stance and doesn’t believe the issue is that big.

  • "I knew when I went to App State that I was going into a liberal area. And it’s sometimes annoying to be the minority opinion, but that's just the way it is. It doesn’t mean I’m socially branded for it."

As Amanda describes, asking this very question just shows how broken America’s political system really is. They want conservatives and liberals entrenched in their respective sides, Amanda says. And they certainly don’t want people to talk to “the other side” or even attempt compromise. By inflaming each side and preventing them from talking to each other, Amanda believes that each side is just furthering their political machine.

  • "Some students are definitely buying into party war, and that makes me sad. But I feel like most of us are above it. After all, I have liberal and conservative friends. We agree to avoid political discussions and move on with our lives."

However, Virginia Tech freshman Felix Brown takes the opposing side and argues that animosity towards libertarians is real on college campus.

  • "It’s not like people are yelling at you in the streets or shunning you completely, I am not arguing that. But there is an air of unwelcomeness when you share an unpopular opinion."

According to Felix, there’s no organized resistance against libertarian students on campus. Rather, it’s the steady build up of various small slights or insults against conservative-leaning students.

For example, Felix describes an instance where the libertarian group, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), were silenced on his campus. During the election, the College Democrats and College Republicans hosted a debate in a last minute effort to get Virginia Tech students involved before voting day. As an extremely active group on campus, YAL had always been included in these debates. However, the libertarian group was banned from the campus debate and were not allowed to petition to gain admittance.

  • "Situations like that are frustrating, and they’re not unusual. I’m not saying legislation or anything needs to be passed, it was their right to ban us from the debate if they wanted. However, it highlights a deeper problem and proves college isn’t as inclusive as they say."

Likewise, Michael Hopkins, a junior at UNC Greensboro, also believes there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, but it’s not about the students.

  • "Students definitely get on each other about politics but it’s been a charged election year, what did you expect? The real problem is the media. They want campuses to be a certain way to fit their arguments but no one is actually talking to the students."

This is the central idea behind Michael's frustrations. As he explains, the media makes its living by blowing events out of proportion. “I get it. They feed the extremists and it gets them views,” Michall says. However, he argues this creates a warped reality and leads people to believe to things that just aren’t true. The media and politicians want to perpetuate political intolerance because it makes their lives easier, after all, that’s how Trump got into office.

  • “It’s a trap and we’re falling head over heels into it."

Overall, it seems libertarians aren’t too concerned about the political intolerance the media often reports. Though some will argue the intolerance doesn’t exist at all and others argue that it’s a minor hindrance, all can agree it’s not as extreme as the media portrays.

Lead image Credit: Paulann Egelhoff via Flickr Creative Commons

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Anna DiGiacomo - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anna is a freshman Strategic Communications major at UNC Chapel Hill. She played varsity soccer in high school and besieged the student body with libertarianism. She now spends her time annoying her roommate, catching Bruce Springsteen concerts and getting lost while pretending to camp. Follow her on Instagram @digiacomoa

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