It’s the worst-kept secret in Philadelphia: Penn is a very liberal university.
Of course, this should be surprising to no one, as it follows the trend of higher education in general, where very few professors openly identify as conservatives.
But this presents a challenge to conservative students who want to succeed both in their current academics and in their future careers, while simultaneously expressing their views and fighting for what they believe to be true here on campus. Often, conservatives feel as if they are stuck between a rock and a hard place: Many want to express their beliefs but are afraid of being ostracized by their peers and professors; thus, they doubt whether it’s even worth it to express their beliefs at what they perceive to be a great cost with little to no tangible benefit.
So naturally, most Penn conservatives choose not to express their political views publicly, for fear of the potential fallout with their peers. Even worse, some of them choose to abandon their conservative views entirely, exchanging them for convenience.
What many fail to realize is that there are more important things than social acceptance, convenience, and yes, even future job prospects. There are some things worth taking a hit for, and there are some things worth fighting for. And anyone who truly believes in conservative principles knows that these principles, if true, are indeed worth taking a hit for.
If every prominent embryologist who has written on the subject is correct in their assessment that human life begins at fertilization, and, thus, if abortion really does take roughly a million innocent human lives per year, many of whom experience terrible suffering and are horrifically dismembered, then that is something worth fighting, no matter the hits to one’s reputation.
If free-market capitalism really lifted 400 million Chinese out of poverty in the two-decade period between 1981 and 2001, and if free enterprise really is the reason why the United States is the most powerful, most prosperous country in world history, then that economic system is worth fighting to preserve here in the United States and to advance worldwide.
Conservatism matters. And indeed, conservatives themselves often wonder why the culture seemingly never stops moving to the left. Well, there is an answer, unpleasant as it may be: Conservatives don’t fight as hard as leftists do when it comes to controlling the institutions that influence the culture.
If conservatives want to change the culture, then they have to change academia. And if they legitimately want to change academia, then they have to be willing to put their necks on the line for their principles. And if they’re unwilling to do this, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t complain when the left controls virtually every culturally-influential institution, as they do now.
Now, this doesn’t mean conservatives should wage pointless battles. We should choose every conflict strategically. Not every battle is worth fighting. If you’re a conservative, it very well may be more advantageous and strategic to keep silent about your views in the classroom, especially if your professor is a far leftist who will mark you down for expressing your beliefs. (You’ll have a much harder time influencing the culture and academia if you flunk out of school!) But it isn’t always the case that you will get marked down for stating your beliefs; it obviously depends on the situation and the professor. Penn has countless brilliant and open-minded professors who, even if they may disagree with you, would love to hear your conservative opinion. Each situation must be prudently judged on a case-by-case basis.
However, one of the best things about Penn for conservatives is that the classroom is far from being the sole or even the most significant area in which one can persuade others of their principles. It is incredibly easy to debate other students on things that matter, especially since nearly everyone on campus vehemently disagrees with conservative principles. There are plenty of opportunities to have discussions; it is legitimately impossible to go an hour on Penn’s campus without encountering a viewpoint that runs directly contrary to conservatism. Plus, there are multiple student groups (such as this publication, The Statesman) where you can freely vent your conservative leanings.
But this means that conservatives have to be willing to remain steadfast; they have to be willing to be branded as “that right-wing guy” or “that conservative gal.” Some people will be instantly turned off to you because of your reputation as a conservative. But that’s essentially irrelevant anyway; after all, does anybody really want friendships where their “friends” disown them at the slightest political disagreement anyway? And if you’re willing to disown your principles at the slightest hit to your reputation, do you really even believe your principles? If you want to defeat the left, then do just that. As a conservative on an Ivy League campus, you are the future of conservatism. You are perhaps the best shot conservatism has at gaining back any ground that has been lost to the intellectual left.
So to my fellow Penn conservatives, I get it. It’s annoying (but sometimes comical) to be given the evil eye by two or three people every time you go down Locust Walk. It’s always irritating when people don’t give you a fair shake. But that’s life. Dish yourself out a nice big plate of “deal with it” and suck it up. It’s a small price to pay for remaining true to your unpopular principles and for standing for things that matter.