Conservative UT-Austin Students Say They Often Feel Marginalized by Peers
By Fallon Sheffield
A number of conservative students at the University of Texas at Austin say they feel marginalized for their political beliefs.
In the era of growing intolerance, where labels such as “woke politics” and “culture wars” makes “political correctness” seem almost polite, conservative students on college campuses, including UT-Austin, also say they often find themselves branded as racists.
“Modern day woke politics strive to end the principles of western society,” said Ryan Stromberg, secretary of College Republicans at Texas. “The goal of it is to shut down everyone they disagree with.”
Stromberg is among three UT students interviewed for this article, one of them speaking only with a condition of anonymity for fear of estrangement by fellow students.
The shift in popular liberal sentiment has contributed to the cancellation of many well-known conservative figures due to their political beliefs. Among them was Matt Walsh host of “The Matt Walsh Show” and political commentator for “The Daily Wire,” when students organized an effort to keep him off college campuses at Texas A&M University earlier this year.
Walsh was set to speak last February at A&M in a free event hosted by the Young America’s Foundation when a plan was made by a group of left-wing activists to interrupt the event. The plan included a detailed document outlining a step-by-step guide to the disruption that was leaked in an article by the Young America’s Foundation. Participating students would reserve tickets and plan to get to the event ahead of time, providing time to coordinate groups and claim designated seats in the ballroom. The publicized plan stated the disruption was to start 10 to 20 minutes into the lecture, where the group planned chants and to play the manifesto of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), an activist group founded in the 1970s that fights on behalf of street people such as sex workers, gay youth and others that they believe are underrepresented even within the LGBTQ community.
The plan was exposed on the Young America’s Foundation website, TAMU’s news publication The Battalion and Matt Walsh himself in a video he posted on The Daily Wire. Due to the exposure the plan was not followed through.
“Being respectful of opposing views is something that I take very seriously,” said Melissa Schipps, a student at UT-Austin. “It’s one thing to speak your mind on an issue, but it’s another to completely disrespect the beliefs of others.”
Both Stromberg and Schipps have expressed that their fellow left-leaning classmates are outspoken on not only beliefs, but on their disliking of conservatives.
“I have had heated disagreements on social media and in the classroom. I have had people give me dirty looks on campus when tabling for UT College Republicans,” Stromberg said. “I think Republican views are extremely misunderstood, and the media portrays these values to be wrong or dangerous. Personal liberty, family values and the idea of the American dream are all of a sudden made out to be bad.”
The Texas Republican Platform outlines views centered around “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Many of these views oppose Democratic beliefs and have caused Republicans to be labeled inaccurately. This includes Judeo-Christian family values such as the traditional marriage of a man and a woman, the rejection of the Critical Race Theory and implementation of anti-abortion laws, each outlined in the Texas Republican Party Platform. Democrats have taken these and labeled them as “homophobic” and “racist.”
“I’ve lost friends over my political views. Personally, I would never say anything hateful towards another race, and I never have. But I’ve heard that friends have called me racist behind my back or have made specific comments about me disliking a certain race. It’s completely untrue and unfair,” Schipps said.
Last year, Senate Bill 12 was proposed in Texas, which would have given the state attorney general the power to file a lawsuit against social media companies it deemed censored information or political views. Sponsors of the bill said it was introduced as an effort to protect free speech within social media companies and was backed by many Republican politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
“Conservative speech will not be canceled in the state of Texas,” Abbott said in a news conference on March 5, 2021.
This issue of free speech is not only present across social media, but on college campuses as well. UT-Austin is located in Travis County, which is primarily liberal. In the 2020 presidential election, only 27 percent of residents voted Republican while 72 percent of residents voted Democrat. This only adds to the extreme leftist majority within college-aged students, making UT Republicans the minority. For example, in the 2020 presidential election, the total votes from precincts serving UT students showed 4,556 votes for Donald Trump and 11,017 votes for Joseph Biden.
“I always feel like the only one in all of my classes. And the times I’ve found others, we’re kind of reluctant to give up that information about ourselves,” Schipps said.
Stromberg said he gets that, but he doesn’t hold back.
“I don’t feel the need to closet my Republican beliefs, but I understand why many are scared to express their beliefs,” Stromberg said. “I’m steadfast in my politics and proudly represent Republican values on campus and encourage others to do the same.”
Another reason some college Republicans feel the need to closet themselves is because of recent, real-life examples.
In fall 2020, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn into her new position as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett is an alumna of Kappa Delta Sorority and holds conservative beliefs. When she took over the role, Kappa Delta Nationals released a neutral statement on Twitter, recognizing her accomplishment: “KD alumna Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. While we do not take a stand on political appointments, we recognize Judge Coney Barrett’s significant accomplishment. We acknowledge our members have a variety of views and a right to their own beliefs.”
The tweet was deleted shortly after release after receiving backlash. The next day another tweet was released by KD Nationals apologizing for the initial post and for disappointing their audience.
“Our approach was disappointing and hurtful to many,” the sorority wrote. “We did not intend to enter a political debate, take a stand on the Supreme Court nomination, cause division among our sisters, or alienate any of our members.”
After these two announcements, a sorority member created a petition on Change.org titled “Kappa Deltas Against Judge Amy Coney Barrett.” The petition called for action to collectively denounce the nomination of Barrett as a Kappa Delta sister.
“If I ever achieve something as big as this, will I ever get recognized for it?” a member of UT-Austin’s Kappa Delta chapter said, who asked to remain anonymous at risk of backlash from fellow sisters.
“I’m a political science major and I think it’s incredible that she’s gotten to the point she’s at today. So if I ever achieve something of a comparable level, am I going to be shot down for this because of my political beliefs?”
“It seems like almost everybody in my sorority is liberal,” the Kappa Delta member said anonymously. “There’s a small group of us who are Republican and know it between ourselves, but we try to keep it away from everyone else. When this happened a little over a year ago it was all we could talk about. It scared a lot of us to reveal our opinions. It’s something we all thought was unfair, but we couldn’t come out and state our stance on it because of the fear that something similar would happen to us. It was like our sorority was trying to hide the fact that they have sisters who are Republican.”
The online petition was signed by more than 13,000 KD members across the nation.
Instances of attempting to silence conservative views are continuous, and Republicans have come out saying their beliefs have the ability to negatively affect them in the future.
“Republican views do not wish to control people,” Stromberg said, “and I think that’s why many people are so against it.”