Truly Inclusive? What I have seen as a disabled, minority, immigrant conservative at Bucknell
Sasha Carpenter | firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a woman of Chuvash-Tartar (Mongolian) descent, adopted from Russia, with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy that affects my walking. I have six adopted, special-needs sisters, some of color, with ethnic backgrounds including: Hispanic, Russian-Ukrainian, Asian, and Roma Bulgarian. I am also an Evangelical Christian and Conservative Republican who voted for President Trump. In light of the election and recent events across college campuses, such as UC Berkeley and NYU, I have been surprised at the reaction within the Bucknell community. Perhaps most surprising to me is the assumptions both my peers and professors have made about me and my views. From before the election, to the days following it, I decided to not share my political views with others unless specifically asked. I sat silently, while most friends, professors, and peers rarely stopped to ask my opinion.
One day after the election, while working on a project, a group of faculty discussed the results right behind me. One member said: “The racists came out to vote last night in Ameri-KKK-a.” Another member said: “I have not felt this bad since 9/11.” As someone who is a Russian minority, with sisters from other countries, I politely shake my head in disagreement with those who might call me a racist. In regard to the latter comment, I felt it very disrespectful to those affected by 9/11, particularly considering it was Veteran’s Day.
That being said, I understand if these are your thoughts and I believe you have a right to express them. However, that means equal coverage should be given to conservative/libertarian viewpoints. I noticed on social media a campus article about students who participated in the Women’s March - and that’s great! But where is the article about the March for Life, or about women, like myself, who voted for President Trump on November 8th? Becoming more aware of unbalanced reporting combined with a lack of conservative/libertarian views presented on campus has made me question in new ways where my voice fits into the Bucknell community.
These events have gotten me thinking: What if people knew my opinion? If this is what they are saying in front of me now, what would they do if they knew where I really stood? Yet, I don’t think it occurs to people that I would be anything but progressive. After all, I am a minority, an immigrant, a female, and I have a disability. According to my “identities,” I should be a progressive.
Sitting in the audience when Christina Hoff Sommers came to speak at Bucknell, I agreed with much of what she said, particularly about oppression. According to the progressive viewpoint, I have plenty of reasons to consider myself oppressed. Yet, in my opinion, as a college-educated American woman, I have no right to complain of oppression. Rather, oppression is the lack of opportunities I would have had as a disabled orphan in a Russian mental institution.
There has been a lot of conversation since Sommers came to Bucknell. What I saw during the open Q&A session was such a lack of respect, that it prompted Tom Ciccotta, organizer of the event, to call out them out. People were yelling and interrupting, making it appear as though their true interests lay in proving Sommers wrong, not engaging in a peaceful exchange of different opinions. This was disappointing to me as a student.
Bucknell has a focus on promoting campus diversity, which is a good thing. The campus Diversity Statement says, “An essential component of Bucknell’s commitment to academic excellence is our commitment to fostering an inclusive, diverse campus community.” However, I suggest that Bucknell needs to consider whether their treatment of conservative/libertarian viewpoints is truly inclusive.
The assumption that I, because of my background and “identities,” should be progressive is concerning because it is the opposite of being open-minded and inclusive. My recent experiences have shown me that many on campus, both students and faculty, consider my viewpoints worthy of ostracization, far from the diversity and tolerance I am assured of as a student. I simply want the equal opportunity to express my opinions and be heard with respect, without the fear of ostracization by the university.