Why Fear of Higher Education Persists Among Conservatives

Conservative students often express concerns about self-censoring on college campuses, even though both liberal and conservative students admit to doing so. However, it is essential to differentiate between self-censorship that is necessary and self-censorship driven by fear. While some level of self-censorship is acceptable, an environment without any form of self-censorship can result in chaos, similar to the uncensored nature of Twitter.

Conservative students may be more prone to self-censorship due to the higher likelihood of encountering opposition from their left-leaning peers. Just as liberals who find themselves in predominantly conservative environments are selective about sharing their opinions, conservative students may feel hesitant in expressing their views freely. Additionally, the fear of facing dogmatic and harsh reactions from left-leaning individuals contributes to self-censorship among conservative students.

It is important to note, however, that the majority of students, regardless of their political affiliation, are not malevolent or seeking to attack others. The fear of being penalized for their political opinions, particularly through lower grades, is far more prevalent among conservative students. Yet, this fear is entirely baseless. Extensive research and experiments have consistently indicated that faculty members do not grade conservatives lower than liberals for equivalent work.

So, if this fear is not rooted in reality, where does it come from? It is likely that conservatives, along with their “centrist” allies who oppose current trends in social justice activism, have played a significant role in creating a moral panic regarding free speech on college campuses. Prominent figures like Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a right-wing organization focused on conservative students, often amplify the narrative that conservative students are targeted. Former President Trump himself has denounced universities for restricting free thought and enforcing conformity.

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It is not surprising that the continuous right-wing media coverage of intolerance towards conservative students contributes to their fear. Exposure to such narratives, akin to watching violence on television, inevitably generates a heightened sense of anxiety. Unfortunately, this aspect of fear among conservative students is seldom discussed or acknowledged.

In conclusion, while self-censorship is a natural occurrence, it is crucial to address unwarranted fears about higher education and the alleged suppression of conservative voices. Both academic research and personal experiences consistently disprove the notion that conservative students are systematically penalized for their political beliefs. By understanding the factors that contribute to these fears, we can foster a more inclusive and intellectually diverse environment on college campuses.

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