Such a controversial election pushed even more students to the left--especially since Hillary Clinton is an alumna of Wellesley.
“Doesn’t cry for boys; cries for Hillary,” a Wellesley student’s Snapchat on the women’s college story said - after Trump had won just one too many states.
Although there are no specifics on exactly how many Wellesley students voted for Donald Trump, the pro-Hillary, liberal environment that comes with a liberal arts women’s college is one that almost silences any conservatives. Some people meekly whisper conservative thoughts, but it would be shocking to hear anyone even remotely supporting Donald Trump.
And then came the Freedom Project.
The Freedom Project is a group that is acting to promote toleration and freedom of speech on campus. However, they have mainly invited speakers with conservative views and had events surrounding conservative ideals. On their main web page alone, three of the four speakers seem to be advocating for conservative beliefs (they are quite literally titled, “Conservatism, and the Republican Party,” “Conservatives on Campus: Myths and Realities,” and “Is Freedom Divisible?: Capitalism and Authoritarianism in the 21st Century”).
A large Wellesley College Freedom Project donor, the Charles Koch Foundation, also does not help their freedom of speech promotion claim, given the foundation’s history of donating to conservative and libertarian causes. However, Charles Koch, of the noted Koch brothers, could additionally be honoring their mother, Mary Robinson Koch, Wellesley College class of 1929.
Regardless, the Freedom Project’s ideas of bringing conservative speakers to campus may not induce an equal opportunity for the freedom of speech. If they were truly attempting to promote a fair discourse on campus, they should additionally invite liberal speakers as well. Undoubtedly, the Freedom Project seems to be advocating for conservatism in the middle of one of the most liberal states, colleges, and demographics in the United States.
It is necessary to provide conservative sources and at least provide a way for people to open up discussion on topics he, she, or they may not feel particularly comfortable with, normally. However, bombarding a particularly liberal campus with information that goes against general public opinion seems to only spark outrage--especially when it is done so unevenly in terms of their invited speakers.
This proved to be true this past March when the Freedom Project invited writer and teacher Laura Kipnis to Wellesley. She spoke out about her controversial stance on anti-sexual assault federal rules being draconian and skyrocketing sexual paranoia.
In response, Sexual Assault Awareness for Everyone, a student organization at Wellesley College, released a video that advertised debunking the “white feminism” that Kipnis represented. This eventually led to a string of e-mails to all of Wellesley’s students and staff, including Freedom Project Director and Wellesley sociology professor Thomas Cushman. Various “reply all” buttons were hit that day, and in the end, this slam of conservatism proved to just make Wellesley’s campus divisive and filled with animosity.
On the other hand, it could be possible that the Freedom Project is purposefully bombarding Wellesley’s campus with conservatism because it already has enough liberalism--and it does not need anymore speakers to help promote these ideas. However, solely inviting conservative speakers will not necessarily promote those ideas either. People will go to great lengths to avoid cognitive dissonance, and most liberals will harshly reject conservative ideas. They will only continue forth with their liberal ideals, only promoted by confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.
The Koch brothers’ Freedom Project is featuring less conservative topics next year, as evidenced by their next featured speaker on “The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today.” Nevertheless, it is crucial for people to learn from this past year and all of the controversial speakers that came with the Freedom Project. Obviously, one important takeaway is that excessive liberalism can exist from some perspectives. To some college students, it appears as though rampant liberalism can only have pros; however, there were undoubtedly people at Wellesley who felt as though it had some cons as well--or else we would not have a Freedom Project or people who supported it in the first place. In general, one should keep an open mind about conflicting political views. If that were more widespread at Wellesley, perhaps people would not feel the need to have a discourse-inducing Freedom Project in the first place. It is always difficult to be an individual amongst a sea of conformity--especially when an entire student body that shares your education and age disagrees.
Nonetheless, at the end of the day, the Freedom Project should approach their featured speakers with an open mind as well. Slamming conservatism in the face of some of the most fervent liberals in the nation is not particularly productive.
So, thank you, Koch brothers for bringing this valuable lesson to Wellesley’s campus. But, those involved in anything controversial or nonconforming (such as Wellesley’s Freedom Project) to be respectful of all ideas. One should stand by his, her, or their beliefs even if they are nonconforming; however, people must learn to live symbiotically regardless of what others’ ideas are.
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