Students at Castleton University who support the Republican Party say they often feel hesitant to speak up and express their views at the school because they feel outnumbered and intimidated by their more liberal classmates and professors.
And they say that atmosphere has gotten worse since President Donald Trump was elected.
“It’s rare for a Republican to speak their mind and not be ridiculed,” said junior Dakota Jones.
When asked if the environment to speak up has gotten worse during the Trump administration, he took a firm stance.
“One hundred percent worse, because everybody relates Trump as a Republican and he isn’t the most respected president,” Jones said.
A male junior who is a member of the university’s Republican Club and who asked not to be named said it’s difficult to bring up Republican positions during class discussions.
“(There’s a) fear of being looked at different because of my viewpoints,” he said. “Republicans are being looked at as racist and that has gotten worse since Trump became president.”
The student added that in one class which featured lively class discussions, “the professor would shut it down” and not allow students to “voice your opinion” if you were expressing support for Republican political views.
But other Republicans said they do not hesitate to speak up.
Nick Marchessault, a sophomore and a member of the Republican Club, talked about his willingness to express himself regardless.
“I think it gives me more of a reason to speak up because I know there are people like me who won’t speak up,” he said. “If I don’t speak up, then who will?”
Lauren Hodsden, a sophomore who is also a member of the Republican Club, discussed how she thinks Republicans feel about speaking up.
“The main problem is they might not be as confident about speaking up because they might not feel as confident that they will be listened to,” she said.
As a result, she is selective about the people who she discusses her political views with.
“I talk to close friends and people who I know won’t hate me because of my views,” Hodsden said. “I do know some people, who once you say you’re in the Republican Club, they won’t talk to you.”
Rich Clark, the coordinator of the political science major at Castleton, said “I do think it’s tougher to be a conservative on a college campus rather than a liberal. In higher ed, conservatives get shut down.”
Kyle Lutinski, a senior who holds more liberal political views, said “in this kind of [divisive political] environment, the minority is going to have more trouble speaking up.”
But Lutinski doesn’t want to live in a liberal bubble.
“I think it’s comfortable to be around people who you agree with but in order to understand the situation better you have to have empathy for the other side. Healthy debate is good because it’s kind of fun to get the opportunity to change someone’s mind.”