If you are a conservative on a college campus, you may want to keep your mouth shut about it, especially while on the air.
After only a few minutes with Josh Lake, an honors history and political science major, as well as the founding member of the Democratic Leadership Club and frequent guest on WIUV Radio, it became very clear just how intolerant and divided students at Castleton University really are.
Lake tried to describe the political conflict among students at the university.
“There are so many memes out there that say, ‘if you’re a conservative on a college campus, you’re fighting a war,’” Lake said. “You’re going to be looking at a population which is mostly democrats or liberals, rather.”
He then went on to emphasize the frequency of people rapping on the windows of the WIUV office, followed by a middle finger aimed at the Republican Club during live broadcasts. He said students can hear the broadcast in buildings on campus, and they walk over to the office to show their intolerance of what’s being discussed.
Lake summed up this behavior as “disgusting.”
So here we have Lake, a founder of a liberal club, defending republicans. He said this sort of intolerant behavior “is the big issue I see on college campuses.”
“Students don’t want to talk about what they feel is important because they think somebody is going to disagree with them,” he said.
The discussion then turned to the relationship between the radio station and the politics on campus. Asked what it is like to talk about political issues with republicans on the radio, he said the conversations have always been calm and completely understanding of differing viewpoints. Only when ignorant people start making obscene gestures from outside the station does the atmosphere become less so.
But Lake said this behavior is not native to actual liberal intellectuals, nor conservative intellectuals, but rather from people who dismiss the idea that there is more than one way of thinking. The people who bashed Obama are the same sorts of people who are now bashing Trump, the only difference being their supposed political stance, he said.
“If you ask them why they hate Donald Trump, what piece of legislation of his they don’t like, what it is about him they don’t like, they have no answer other than the typical ad hominin insults,” he said.
Lake uses this sort of question to gauge how “into” politics someone is.
“If all you can tell me is the worst thing about Donald Trump as a person, and not Donald Trump as a president, it’s not worth having a political conversation with you,” Lake explained.
He went on, describing the lack of support his liberal friends give him when he says this sort of thing. This doesn’t bother him, though, because he said he wants to talk policy.
“The Republican Club and I talk policy and political philosophy on the radio,” he said.
Lake doesn’t like Donald Trump as a person, nor as a president, but “what makes me dislike Donald Trump, the man, shouldn’t make me dislike Donald Trump, the president.”
Toné Sawyer, a leader at WIUV, stressed that political debate is good and he said “the Vermont State College System has adopted freedom of speech policy that allows them to say anything that falls inside FCC regulations.”
According to Lake, however, the political divide on campus may be less about politics and more about virtue signaling.
“It’s less of a political divide and more of a divide among those who are invested in politics and those who pretend to be,” he said.
William Chmielewski, the general manager of WIUV, does not see a big problem among students at Castleton regarding political debate on the air.
“There is some negative stigma around the Republican Club, as we are at a Liberal Arts University. But for the most part it is not shown very much by most of the student body, other than a few prank calls,” he explained.
And he said opposing views are noteworthy, demonstrating the wide range of opinions and voices found on Castleton University’s campus.
Political science professor Rich Clark also discussed the need for political debate and free speech, even if the values may seem in the minority. He also cited a Pew poll in which 51 percent of republican college students said they felt “coldly” about professors whereas on 5 percent of democrat students do.
Clark offered several links to stories showing how republicans and conservatives on college campuses are treated differently than democrats.
“In an academic environment, conservative views can often be underrepresented, so the existence of a student club that promotes conservative viewpoints can be an important contribution to ideological diversity on our campus,” he wrote in an email response.