By Molly Dalton & Kurt Mason, Contributing Writers
When taking a look around UMF, there is no mistaking that you have stepped foot onto a heavily liberal campus; however, there are members of the UMF community, though few and far between, who represent a more conservative viewpoint. With the upcoming election, representation of politics and overall interest/discussion of politics has been on the rise. As people who identify as conservatives, we feel it necessary to express some of the observations and experiences that we have had when it comes the discussion of liberal versus conservative politics and candidates.
Attending a liberal arts college as a conservative, or even being part of a younger generation of conservatives, has the potential to be difficult and, at times, challenging. Lynn Richards, an early Childhood Education major here at UMF, said that, “it is hard going to an extremely liberal school as a Republican. Often, in class discussions, I do not feel comfortable stating my opinion due to professors’ and peers’ negative reactions towards my views.” Richards continued by stating, “being in a class where you do not feel comfortable joining in the class discussion due to your views is hard and discouraging.”
Richards is not alone in feeling this way. Lauren Wheelock, another Early Childhood Education major on campus, shares a similar stance to Richards. “When I do share how I feel, or state my opinion, I sometimes get dirty looks, rude comments or begin being bombarded with slanted questions that suggest my statement is incorrect,” said Wheelock.
Political awareness has become heightened on this campus since last Tuesday when Maine’s Governor, Paul LePage, was asked to speak in honor of Theodora Kalikow, former President of UMF, as the campus was dedicating and renaming the Education Center in her name. During this non-political event, two students decided to hold posters blatantly shaming Governor LePage. Although they were protesting silently and peacefully, they brought politics into an event that had no political value which ultimately resulted in the Governor stopping his speech and leaving campus.
Now, neither party involved handled the incident correctly; LePage, a man who is no stranger to public speaking and government politics should not have reacted the way that he did, but the students who chose to protest this event should have realized that there is a time and place for politics and a dedication ceremony was not the correct time, nor the correct place. Ultimately, the focus was turned away from honoring former President Kalikow, and was turned towards politics.
The political divide between liberal and conservative views can be seen on collegiate campuses across the nation. Not long ago, at Emory University in Atlanta, students faced possible backlash after writing ‘Trump 2016’ in chalk in various locations across campus, a method of political advertising that has been used to show support for fellow presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The backlash came when students spoke to the president of Emory and said that ‘Trump 2016’ was not a political advertisement, but a threat and a message of anti-diversity.
Instead of the campus having an open discussion about the so-called incident, the President of the university emailed the student body to appease the students who were upset. This sparked media attention and a debate about whether or not college students and people of a younger generation are simply too sensitive.
The discussion of politics on our small, rural campus is nowhere near perfect; people are too quick to judge and preach before actually listening to an opposing opinion. Gunnar Heckler, a political science major and self proclaimed anarchist/socialist commented that, “politics [at UMF] like anywhere else are generally ignored and not viewed favorably…to an extent, sure, people are aware, but people, myself included, could be doing more.” In conclusion, all three of our interviewees agreed upon one, basic principle: “it is important to hear all sides of an argument because of intellectual integrity. You cannot learn if you aren’t willing to listen.”