The elephant in the room

Casey Chiappetta

It’s 2014—it’s time for a frank conversation about coming out. Fearing backlash from family members and friends, and ostracism from social circles shouldn’t determine when people acknowledge a very large part of who they are and how they think. Republicans, it’s time to come out.

Coming out as a conservative is often an arduous and somewhat socially perilous process. Life outside the closet is often harsh. A Republican at American University, who wished to remain anonymous due to potential repercussions, described this condition as one of reluctance with a side of fear.

Wearing a low-cut floral tank top with her bra straps showing, jeans and black flats, trying to look like the rest of us, the AU senior said, “You always have to hide part of yourself. Liberals claim to accept all identities, but they’re vicious when they hear you’re conservative. Please don’t use my name in this article.” She skulked away.

A Randolph Foundation study from 2005 found that 72 percent of college faculty self-identified as liberal, compared to 18 percent as conservative. This was even more pronounced in elite colleges—87 percent of faculty considered themselves to be liberal and 13 percent conservative.

Juxtapose this with the 38 percent of Americans who self-identified as conservative, 23 percent who self-identified as liberal (an all-time high) and 34 percent who identified as moderate, as a 2013 study by Gallup found. College simply isn’t reflective of national political leanings.

As a result, Republicans often find themselves in the closet. And for them, college is a place where it doesn’t get better.

Keep in mind, AU, has a student population rated as the fourth most politically active by the Princeton Review in 2014. Those who identify as conservative often find themselves at odds not only with other students, but with the college culture in general.

Later in a phone interview because she was afraid of being recognized, the student continued, “Even my closest friends don’t know who I really am. I hide my Mitt Romney T-shirts in a secret bottom drawer and hug them close when I feel especially alone. I even write for AWOL.”

CollegeProwler, a forum for current college students to post reviews ranging from academics to drug safety, gave AU an “A” for diversity. Yet, as one college senior’s review said, the “majority of people are liberal, Democratic, or both. At AU, if you don’t agree with every political opinion another student does [sic], it often becomes hostile and unpleasant.”

So when are we going to stop acting like there are closets brimming with unborn fetuses and Christ figurines and start acting like there are closets brimming with silenced students who, whether we like it or not, have a right to come out and feel safe?