OPINION: Urban school alumni talk about the liberal/conservative mix in college

Hannah Berk, Staff Writer

Going to college can be a huge transition, especially if you are moving from a liberal school to a conservative one.

For example, some students are asked to sign an honor code, such as the academic honesty code at Stanford University. But Brigham Young University’s honor code is somewhat out of the ordinary. Not only is homosexuality strictly banned, but also “(e)xcessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable.”

What is it like switching to an opposite environment and communicating with people who have very different views? How can you prepare yourself for what’s to come?

Here are interviews with three Urban graduates who attend schools with a mix of both liberals and conservatives.

Evan Chang, class of 2012, freshman at Brigham Young University, Salt Lake City

The transition from Urban to Brigham Young University was definitely a culture shock at first. First, I am in a new place with a bunch of new people and not only are these people just new people, they almost all have the same political beliefs. It was hard trying to find friends with the same opinions as me because a lot of their views are based on their past with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Nonetheless, I have found my way or am finding (it) and found a few friends who have similar beliefs as I do. So yes, this school is very conservative but I like how here at BYU they have a bunch of great standards that make their students focused and engaged at all times. I do not view myself as a conservative or anything else for that matter because I have yet to really solidify my own beliefs and values. The biggest thing I found is that you can find quality people wherever if you are willing to listen to what they believe rather than challenging them on what they believe in juxtaposition to what you believe. I have met and have a bunch of friends who I know don’t agree with all the things I have to say but I am willing to get past that. Great people are everywhere and I’ve noticed that people are just people and I have to accept that and move forward.

The most recent encounter (with a conservative) I had was with a volleyball player on my team. For some reason we got to the topic of gay marriage and we had an awesome talk about it for about 3 hours. The talk was awesome because we weren’t yelling at each other we were just talking about our opinions and how they were so different because of how we had grown up. We were both not willing to compromise, but I had never looked at the topic from my friends point of view and it was interesting how we could both be right about things because we defined things differently based on how we were raised and how it affected what we held to be true. He didn’t say anything that was very shocking but there were things he said that I completely disagreed with, there were also things I said that he completely disagreed with.

Selby Cohen, Class of 2011, sophomore, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kans.

I went to KU because it was culturally different from what I was used to. I am still a liberal despite the culture shock that I experienced by going to school in Kansas. I am one of the few liberals that I know at Kansas though, almost all of my friends are conservative, having come from other red states like Kansas such as Nebraska, Texas, Kentucky and Missouri. Because of this, I tend to refrain from political discussions with my friends …. because, well, I’d be bombarded with unwanted anti-liberal nonsense.

Alex Roncal, Class of 2009, senior at Rhodes University, Memphis

My school is both liberal and conservative, however most my friends, and pretty much my entire Fraternity is conservative.  However, I mostly encounter libertarian ideals.  I know hardly any religious conservatives within my school, however they certainly have their voice within Memphis where Rhodes is located.

Many of my friends are frustrated with the way religious ideals get conflated with conservative values. I think in the future, you will see a fiscally conservative, socially liberal party become relevant in the United States.  I would consider myself a moderate and part of the reason I chose to go to Rhodes was to experience a variance of opinion.  I feel like the college counseling office sometimes pigeonholes itself with colleges and universities that are like-minded to Urban in political belief.  I have not had an issue with clashing viewpoints, but I think that comes from my perspective.  I was looking for something new and found a school with those opinions that were new and fresh to me.  I wasn’t looking to antagonize my future friends by being overly political so when I disagree, I’ll usually treat it as a learning experience as a opposed to a potential argument or debate. My mom has always been very conservative so I have always been surrounded by those values.  I remember being in the (San Francisco) Chronicle newsroom, with The Urban Legend, when Obama was elected and we were all pretty thrilled.  However, being in Memphis when he was re-elected was a completely different story.  Surprisingly my perspective changed as well as I no longer supported him after four years at Rhodes.  Whether that has to do with being surrounded by conservatives, I do not know, but I do feel that Obama did not accomplish as much as he should have during his first time and I cannot say I support Obamacare.

TMO O’Connell, class of 2012, freshman at Southern Methodist University

Going to SMU was a pretty big transition from Urban. The political views here are very different, or at least the views of the people I spend my time with at SMU are very different than what I experienced at Urban. Honestly, I think being at a place with such different views has been a great learning experience. The transition has really made me think more about my personal views. At Urban, I never really thought too much about politics and just kind of adopted the liberal views that were so prevalent at Urban. Since coming to (SMU), I have been questioned, pushed, lectured at, and educated from a much more conservative viewpoint. This really caused me to think about politics and what I personally really believe as apposed to just taking my liberal Urban education as the correct way of thinking. As much as I notice people being very bias and ignorant here, since coming to SMU I have also realized how bias and even sometimes hypocritical the mentality regarding politics is at Urban (which I already knew to some degree at Urban but just didn’t think much of it). As much people here are stubborn and thick heatedly conservative when it comes to politics I feel that Urban might have actually been worse. I say this not because I agree more with the conservativeness of SMU but because the people here are very politically savvy and well-educated where as people at Urban swear by their political beliefs without actually knowing that much and just go based on what they have been told by other people or base their whole political ideology on a few social issues (namely gay marriage and abortion).

I have gotten into a number of pretty heated arguments here. The two topics that have started real arguments are abortion and gay marriage, and usually the person against abortion and gay marriage is a serious Christian. These arguments really don’t accomplish much, because both sides are fixed in their viewpoints, but although my pro-abortion and gay marriage beliefs haven’t changed at all, I have found it interesting to hear some of the counter-arguments. Other issues that get discussed a decent about is taxes, welfare, and gun control. Any of those topics will bring up a good debate and one that people will actually be influenced by (as opposed to sticking to their original beliefs no matter what).