What It's Like To Be A Conservative on a Liberal College Campus

What happens when college GOPers go behind enemy lines at liberal colleges.

April 25, 2014, 2:35 PM
PHOTO: Young Republicans of Arlington, Brad Tidwell, Dan Anderson, and Freddie Klein, debate if Mitt Romney can beat President Barack Obama, March 6, 2012.
Young Republicans of Arlington, Brad Tidwell, Dan Anderson, and Freddie Klein, debate if Mitt Romney can beat President Barack Obama, March 6, 2012.
Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

April 25, 2014 -- When Luka Ladan started his freshman year at Vassar College in southeast New York, he started noticing a difference between himself and the majority of his classmates.

“We were talking about the upcoming election,” he said. “I was in a class talking about Republicans – Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. Whenever a name was mentioned, one kid would snicker and then five to seven would just laugh at the name.”

When the 2012 election finally rolled around, it didn’t get much better for Ladan when President Obama won and the campus seemed to erupt in celebration.

“[All the students] were just packed into a building. Everyone was cheering, ecstatic that they won,” he said. “I remember sitting in my room because I voted for Romney.”

The College Republicans dove into exposing this demographic this week by starting a Twitter campaign called #MyLiberalCampus, encouraging conservative students to speak out on their experiences.

“Sometimes I’ve questioned my beliefs because so many of my fellow students believe in something different,” Ladan said. “Am I wrong with believing this? Is there something wrong with me? I remind myself that you should show resolve, but it’s tough.”

And there’s no College Republican group at the 2,500-student school, he said, because GOP supporters could “never manage to” get the necessary 25 signatures.

Our universities are indoctrinated by liberal bias and fail to offer any diversity of thought. Use #MyLiberalCampus...we want to know!

— College Republicans (@CRNC) April 23, 2014

Megan Haas, third-year student at Northeastern, wasn’t expecting such a liberal campus when she moved from North Carolina, a state Romney won by 2 points in 2012.

“Coming up here was kind of a big shock to see the other side of things,” she said. “It comes across that there only is a liberal campus. That’s how I felt most of the way in college so far: that there is no room for conservatives there.”

This is a common experience in this age group: 66 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Obama in 2008 and 60 percent did in 2012 – the largest numbers in decades, according to the Pew Research Center.

“I would say a lot of liberals on campus are a lot more vocal, a lot more in your face,” she said. “I know I have – or my friends have – spoken up about their views in political science classes and we get beaten down and laughed at.”

The liberal classroom climate hasn’t stopped Haas from standing up for her conservative point of view.

“I’ve started ‘coming out’ in classes,” she said. “The faculty are – I don’t want to say oppressive – but they are very not open to other views.”

My professor called Republicans "brain dead" on #MyLiberalCampus. #OffensiveOnSoManyLevels

— Corinne Clark (@corinnec) April 23, 2014

So what’s at the root of these liberal campuses?

“It’s really standard for young people to lean more left, especially in a university setting – and the root cause is that there is no one to object,” said Alice Gilbert, a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara.

“You’re dealing with administration who are all of one opinion and that becomes the norm. Students are here to learn; they aren’t here to debate.”

Several students pointed to the latest debate that will play a central role in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections: Obamacare.

“From all the talk on campus, if you don’t want this healthcare, you’re a bad person. But that’s not what we’re trying to say. We’re saying there’s a better, more financially responsible way to do it,” said Haas. “They’re not thinking of their future. They’re not being responsible. Someone’s got to be the voice of reason.”

Ladan echoed similar experiences at Vassar College.

“There are classes where we talked about Obamacare in the class, and 90 percent of the class is obviously for Obamacare,” he said. “It’s tough to be confident about what you believe in when there are so many people stacked up against you.”

My media ethics professor demanding that skeptics of global warming have no place in media coverage about the topic #SaveMe #MyLiberalCampus

— John Lombardo (@TheJohnLombardo) April 23, 2014

Shawn Lewis, who graduated from University of California Berkeley last year and now serves as the chair of the California College Republicans, said he thinks that students start to think more independently during their college years.

“You come in freshman year, you’ve got an apartment, you’re an adult – maybe you don’t know where you stand,” he said. “But once you start hearing how Obama or other leaders are affecting you personally, you start to [reconsider].”

Lewis said that most students are inheriting their liberal views from their parents or professors, but Lewis grew up with political debate at home around the kitchen table. “My mom and dad are total opposites. My mom is a small business owner and my dad works at Apple,” he said. “I think you can guess which is which.”

None of the schools responded to ABC News' requests for comments.

On #MyLiberalCampus a professor asked Republicans to raise our hands and said "Oh Republicans, I wish that there were more of you...on Mars"

— Kailyn Allen (@KailynAllen) April 23, 2014

For some, like Gilbert, spending four years in enemy territory has made them stronger.

“Being a minority on campus has pushed me further right in that I’m focused to confront my beliefs and how I can support them,” said Gilbert. “That’s only strengthened my arguments. Having to argue your point to everybody all the time really makes you stronger in your own sentiment.”

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events