Do you enjoy the works of Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer, and even (gasp) Ann Coulter on occasion? Do you find yourself saying “I told you so” to left-wing friends about Obama’s recent meltdowns? Do family members fastidiously avoid making Bush jokes around you, for fear of the inevitable lecture that will follow?
Yes? Great! Then you’re a conservative like me.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard and read all sorts of nasty things about how inhospitable the halls of higher learning are to members of our ideological tribe. Well, here’s the bad news: everything you’ve read is more or less true. If you’re a member of the arts department, during the five-year pursuit of your undergraduate degree, you will, in fact, be constantly subjected to insufferable leftism at every turn. From professors who consider printouts of Photoshoped Stephen Harper/ Hitler crossbreeds to be tasteful office decor, to reading lists full of Chomsky and Churchill (Ward, not Winnie), to student councils passing ostentatious resolutions of “solidarity” with every half-baked gang of third-world thugs who can get their hands on some AK-47s, inhabiting the self-proclaimed “radical campus” of SFU is not always the most uplifting experience for the people of the ideological right.
But it can still be tolerable. A few key points to keep in mind:
Get used to being in the minority
Being an open conservative in a liberal arts class means being the opposition, and being the opposition means much of the class will find you annoying. Because your comments and observations will have a confrontational, critical edge, most other students will invariably come to view you as a shit-disturber, blowhard, attention-whore, or worse. During tutorial discussions you’ll always be outnumbered, and frequently ganged-up on, so you’ll have to learn how to hold your own. In the best-case scenario, the professor or instructor will treat you as a novelty; someone who can be called upon to stimulate debate, but still not worth taking too seriously. Rather than mope, learn to embrace the role of being the lone iconoclast, and find the joy in making others squirm.
Liberals view academia the same way some people treat Dungeons and Dragons, which is to say they get very cross, very quickly, if you openly observe how stupid their little make-believe world is. As a result, if you have any long-term desire to be taken seriously (or receive a passing mark) in the arts faculty, you’ll quickly have to learn to obey some of the rules of the ivory tower game. That means dressing up your ideas with lots of pretentious academic gobbledygook, and prefacing your cynical commentary with guard-lowering statements like “while Che Guevara certainly had some good ideas….” In short: resist your urge to call a spade a spade. Call it a co-opted phallocratic signifier of neo-transgressive soil subversion, or no one will listen to you. Know when to hold your tongue When all is said and done, you only have one major goal in any given course, and that’s to earn a decent grade. Never compromise your ideals, but understand that in the pursuit of that elusive “A” you’ll frequently have to just shut up and regurgitate some of the leftist tripe your professor has been so tirelessly feeding you. A lot of instructors will give you the line that they “don’t care what you say, as long as you can defend it.” But this is really just code for “grading your final essay will be a lot easier for both of us if you just agree with my stance on Iraq/Wal-Mart/Preston Manning.”
Hold firm, and the respect will follow
Being a conservative on campus can be tough. You’re outnumbered, outgunned, and frequently outcast. But it’s not all bad news. In the last few years at SFU we’ve witnessed some encouraging signs that the once all-encompassing liberal cultural dominance of the student scene is starting to erode. A number of unapologetically conservative student politicians have risen to key posts in the SFU Student Society, this newspaper now frequently publishes excellent conservative editorials, and a handful of student groups have become increasingly active in their desire to ensure that both sides of the story are heard when contentious issues like abortion and Israel are publicly discussed on campus. Such counter-movements have been successful precisely because the students behind them refused to let themselves be humbled in the face of leftist hegemony — a worthy mantra for us all to follow. But if all else fails…
Consider switching to business The people are much nicer.
J.J. McCullough is an SFU Alumni and founder of the “Students for America” club, who served as Peak opinions editor in 2008.