The elephant in the room

The elephant in the room

Photo Credits: RAEL HANUS / AGGIE

Republican students struggle to find their voice at UC Davis

The UC Davis community is known for its sense of tolerance and inclusivity. With many programs, majors and clubs in place which focus on these issues, diversity is at the forefront of campus ideology. Republican students, however, describe alienation on the basis of politics as a reality, and one that impacts their lives daily. Ryan Gardiner, a third-year political science — public service major and the president of the Davis College Republicans (DCR) club, argued that this may be due to one type of diversity which is often overlooked.

“Davis celebrates diversity of all different kinds, which is important and strengthens our campus,” Gardiner said. “Except the one type of diversity which Davis does not give value to is ideological diversity.”

In a 2010 study performed by UC Davis Institutional Analysis Student Research and Information, 46 percent of students identified themselves as liberals, 14 percent as conservatives and 22 percent identified as being ‘moderate or middle of the road.’ These results show that an overwhelming majority of students lean left. This significant majority has fostered an environment in which liberal views are the norm for the campus. Third-year political science and English double-major Andrew Mendoza is vice-chairman of the DCR. While Mendoza grew up in Sacramento, a city which is also predominantly liberal, he believes Davis fosters a negative attitude towards the Republican ideology.

“It is nothing new to be swimming against the grain, but UC Davis is a more hostile environment,” Mendoza said.

Gardiner feels that this issue is not only harmful to conservatives but to liberals as well. Because the liberal ideology occupies the vast majority, there are very few opportunities for opinions to be debated, he believes. With no opposition, liberal students are very rarely interacting with different ideologies that exist — Gardiner thinks this lack of dialogue can hinder individuals from strengthening their outlooks on the world and solidifying their opinions.

“If one is a part of the liberal supermajority at Davis, they hold beliefs which are consistent with many other students at Davis,” Gardiner said. “Therefore, they do not have to question or defend those beliefs.”

Gardiner believes that in order for students to progress and enrich their political outlooks, they must be exposed to opinions from both sides.

“I do not believe conservative voices are given the time of day, even though both voices are necessary for a productive conversation,” Gardiner said.

These officers state that much of the DCR’s frustrations are not due to the liberal student majority but rather the liberal faculty majority. As educators, the UC Davis faculty has an obligation to enrich young minds by providing differing perspectives and outlooks. Despite this expectation, members of the DCR believe they have had negative experiences with several of their professors. A second-year graduate student majoring in art history and secretary of DCR, Catherine Serou feels a number of her professors have fostered hostile environments through biased teaching.

“One of my professors said ‘southerners should not be allowed to vote’ to me after learning that I was a Republican from New Orleans,” Serou said. “I left the room.”

Gardiner has had similar experiences during his college career.

“I have never had a professor, with the exception of one, who did not hold liberal beliefs, and most of the time they were very vocal about that,” Gardiner said. “When you are learning in an environment in which the people you are supposed to look up all share opinions counter to what you believe, it can be tough.”

Mendoza expressed concern for how the dynamic between liberals and conservatives on campus has led to a cycle of bias and blame.

“We do not mind if others disagree or protest, we disagree a lot and protest a little, but it is the attempts to silence speech that are alien,” Mendoza said. “We would never do that to another campus organization or individual.”

Regardless of this lack of understanding between groups, the Davis College Republicans believe that it is possible for liberals and conservatives to not only coexist, but to learn from one another. They argue that liberal and conservative students on campus have unique perspectives which, when combined, will only strengthen the Davis community. They foster the belief that it is the responsibility of each student and faculty member to be open to hearing differing opinions, even if their only intention is to strengthen their own.

Second-year managerial economics major and political Director of the DCR Karan Brar believes in open discussions between different groups.

“We should be able to disagree with each other,” Brar said. “I believe more debates between the two parties will not only excite both conservatives and liberals on campus to attend these debates, but it will also encourage Independents and Non-Political students to attend. An active democracy is a healthy democracy.”

Written by: Miki Wayne  – features@theaggie.orgD