Macalester College has a reputation for being one of the most liberal colleges in the nation. Within the Macalester community, conservatives act as a political minority. Often times, the ideological differences between the two groups becomes a barrier.
“This is a place that boasts its quality of open-mindedness, which most of the time is true. However, I think that this campus can be very critical of opinions and it’s scary to be on the receiving end,” an anonymous junior commented when asked how it feels to be a conservative on Macalester’s campus. The junior continued to describe their feelings regarding inclusion on at Macalester, stating, “When [I’m] asked how it feels to be conservative on this campus it makes me feel guilty and wrong for my thoughts. I feel excluded. I make a point to never share my opinions. I don’t fear persecution from every Macalester student but at the same time, I’d rather not risk it.”
The same junior stated, “I don’t mean to attack Macalester’s liberal nature. I think initially, it became so liberal based off the idea liberals tend to be more accepting and open-minded. However, I feel like the fervor in which [liberals] have taken to being open-minded and politically correct is so strong, they condemn people who don’t immediately take or understand their philosophies.”
Olivia Hansen ’19 shared similar experiences at Macalester while identifying as a fiscal conservative. “I plan to transfer from Macalester after this spring semester, not solely for the liberalness of this school but also in conjunction with the size. I find it odd how liberal thinkers pride themselves on being the most welcoming and open-minded of the political parties; however, they look down upon those like me who are more conservative and have differing viewpoints.” Hansen continued to expand on her thought, questioning, “Should they not be as accepting of my ideas as they are of others?”
When asked if she felt her voice was heard, Hansen wrote, “I feel as though my voice is heard because I am willing to join in debates that occur in my classroom. However, my opinions are not as accepted. People frown upon the questions I raise and the points I attest to. I do not feel like my opinions are as readily accepted as more liberal views are.” Hansen made it clear that while she does not feel entirely excluded, there is a notable openness towards liberal students, citing how there was a Macalester Democratic organization present at the fall organization fair, yet she could not find a Republican equivalent.
For Hansen, Macalester’s liberal status did not weigh too heavily on her decision to attend. Rather, she explained, “I did not think it would be an issue with my conservative mindset. I believed it to be more in the background and if I wished to have political discussions, it would be possible.” She acknowledged, “It has had a much bigger impact on me than I had originally expected. It is not in the shadows, it is much more in your face … never before this year have I constantly had to defend my ideology to a group of people where little to no one agrees.”
The liberal climate Macalester is known for is not always the most welcoming for those in the political minority. Often times this aspect can be overshadowed due to underrepresentation, thus leaving those who identify as such feeling excluded in various ways. It’s important to keep this in mind on such a politically charged campus and make attempts to keep an open dialogue between differing political ideologies.