Letter to the Editor: Conservatives are not targets of oppression at UNO

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Nate Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR

A recent opinion piece in the Gateway sought to advise oppressed conservative students on how to navigate campus. Inclusion is a critical component of a healthy learning environment, and I will vigorously defend it. I don’t seek to invalidate people’s experiences, but the article’s argument that conservative students are a marginalized group is profoundly flawed. I will do my best to respond issue by issue within the constraints of the medium, given that it takes longer to respond to a series of claims than to make them.

Starting with the faculty argument, it should be noted that the post in question focused on historically liberal disciplines, ones that require professors to critically examine the human condition. This should be considered in light of the fact that there are one hundred and fifty majors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and the source that the article cited selected nine—representing just 6% of possible majors at a college that we do not attend. It is also worth noting that UNL has had several prominent conservative extremists, challenging the argument of bias.

The Berkeley case mentioned is shameful. No equivocation. When compared to political violence in the United States, however, its source is unusual. Most terrorist attacks and political violence in the U.S. in recent years were committed by extremist conservatives. Even the 2017 Unite the Right event, where a conservative protester killed a counter-protester and injured 19 others, occurred in large part on the campus of the University of Virginia. In the same way that the Berkeley case should not be misconstrued to apply to all liberals, this incident should not be misconstrued to apply to all liberals.

I am deeply sorry to hear that the author of the article was harassed in 2016. I have had my own experiences here, having been called “dangerous” and more because I am progressive. We should consider this alongside the fact that our campus was vandalized with swastikas and other imagery in multiple places, including the CPACS bathrooms, after the election. We should also note the repeated appearance of fliers on campus and in surrounding neighborhoods with Nazi literature.

It’s also worth noting that there have long been more conservative-leaning political groups on campus than liberal ones. In fact, the total number of students involved in conservative groups has outnumbered their liberal counterparts until this semester. There is a large and active population of conservative students at UNO as shown by Engage numbers. As President of the College Democrats of Nebraska, I would say political diversity is a good thing.

The crux of this response confirms the first concluding point of the article in question. It states, “Most professors at UNO are just trying their best, and they aren’t out to get you.” That is spot-on and the same conclusion reached in a Gateway article this May, where the UNO community from across the political spectrum agreed that this is an open campus regarding politics. It’s worth noting that at the time said article and this response were written, the author was a member of a conservative student organization, according to Engage. I do not believe there are major issues with conservative students being discriminated against by UNO faculty or students.

I’m left with three possible conclusions about the article: its thesis is flawed or incorrect, the article is misleading readers or it misrepresents what may well be a nuanced situation. College is known to challenge one’s beliefs. As a progressive in Nebraska I am used to being unwelcome, so, in a state run by conservatives, you’ll have to forgive me for not believing that conservatives are oppressed.

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