Conservative students can be happy on a liberal campus, concludes a study presented at the American Sociological Association and reported by Inside Higher Ed. UC-San Diego Sociology Professor Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood, a graduate student, interviewed open and closet conservatives at an elite Eastern private college and a large Western public university. In both cases, conservatives were a small minority on campus.
At the private college, conservatives “viewed the experience of being in the minority as a positive one” in teaching them to examine and defend their beliefs, Wood said. By contrast, many conservatives at the public university said they were the victims of bias by classmates and professors.
The private college conservatives “felt that they had very close relationships with faculty members with whom they disagreed on politics.” Conservatives avoided only a few courses, such as “critical gender studies.”
Much of this related to “very small class size” and to a sense that all students and faculty members were part of a common community, and wanted to disagree with one another respectfully. As a result, Wood said, while the conservative students generally said that they didn’t hold back their views, they didn’t describe going to class looking for a fight — and they talked about wanting to disagree with professors in respectful ways, since they felt treated with respect.
At the Western public university, which had larger classes and less faculty-student interaction, students said they didn’t know their professors well. Conservative students talked about “trying to get in fights” with professors in class, of “trying to catch their professors in the act of liberal indoctrination.”