Kenneth Pancake works for the Nebraska Legislature.
Welcome, (or welcome back), to the University of Nebraska at Omaha! As you settle into your new class schedule, attend your first campus events and make new friends, you probably have a lot on your mind. Where can I park? What’s the best study spot on campus? And my personal favorite – where can I find free food today?
Other students have other things on their mind, for example a California professor recently used Twitter to call “ALL OF [Trump Supporters] …white nationalist terror supporters.” These students could also be thinking about the sister school down the road, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, that doesn’t have an ideologically diverse faculty, according to a news personality on Facebook. Students may also remember a story from Campus Reform, a conservative college news site, where a student at the University of California, Berkeley was actually punched in the face for recruiting students for his conservative organization – all while being called a “racist… [expletive].” These are all things that have happened at other campuses, leaving UNO students to ask, “Will that come here?”
Being a conservative – and/or a Trump supporter – on a college campus can be tough. (I would know.) But, it hasn’t all been bad during my four years here. For example, I founded and led a conservative group on campus that ran events such as the Free Speech Ball. The administration here at UNO actually worked with my group to ensure that no “physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats (or) intimidation” took place, per actions banned by UNO’s Code of Conduct.
I’ve had not so fun days, such as walking across campus the day after the 2016 general election. I remember having expletives shouted my way simply for wearing a campaign T-shirt from a local conservative candidate. Similar reactions have happened elsewhere to students wearing the popular MAGA hat – they’ve received heavy criticism, or worse.
Fortunately, UNO is better than the average American university. While there is always an exception to a rule, most professors and students in Omaha have taken the phrase ‘Nebraska Nice’ and turned it into a reality. So, for you, fellow conservative, I have three pieces of advice.
First: Don’t look for a fight when there isn’t one. Most professors at UNO are just trying their best, and they aren’t out to get you. If you’re unfortunate enough to encounter something as nasty as some of the examples above, get video or get a screenshot to share. There are plenty of organizations such as Campus Reform or Alliance Defending Freedom that are willing to defend you if you’ve been treated unfairly.
Second: Open your mind. College will challenge your worldview, and that’s not a bad thing. My experience here has only made me a bolder conservative, but I’ve also changed my opinion in some areas. Don’t be afraid to admit that President Trump has faults, but don’t be tricked into thinking supporting him means you support those faults.
Third: Be strong. You may just want to stay quiet for fear of isolation—Don’t. Somewhere in your class, there’s a young conservative who may be afraid to even reveal his/her opinion for fear of retaliation. He or she needs your voice to know that it’s okay to have a different opinion. Speak up when discussion begins. Be polite, but firm. Maybe consider writing an opinion piece for the Gateway.
Let’s make being different great again.