Landis Hosts Conservative/Libertarian Discussion

By Mike Kozinski ’21, Contributing Writer

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Socially and politically conservative and libertarian students shared their experiences as politically right students at a mostly liberal college during a discussion event.

Sarah Niebler, assistant professor of political science, and Emily Marshall, assistant professor of economics, moderated the April 18 event. Erica Lawrence, director of the Office of LGBTQ Services, also was present to take notes and observe.

The event, hosted by the Landis Collective, was part of their “Landis Listens…” series, where community members can have conversations about politics, faith and a variety of other topics.

“What I took away from the meeting was the sense that socially/politically conservative and libertarian students would like diversity of political ideas to be part of the conversation related to overall inclusivity at Dickinson,” Niebler said. “This ranges from acknowledging the fact that there are diverse political views on campus during orientation to ensuring the achievements of students in more politically conservative student groups are recognized for the good work they do on campus and in the community.”

The discussion primarily focused what socially and politically conservative and libertarian students discern as unwarranted backlash for disagreeing with the political opinions of liberal or liberal-leaning Dickinson students. Niebler and Marshall asked students in attendance about their personal experiences and about Dickinson policies that either hinder or help students on the political right. 

Karli Tellis ’22 attended and found the atmosphere of the meeting to be a positive contrast to typical campus attitudes. “I do believe much of the backlash comes from a general misunderstanding, largely due to a stigma and stereotype surrounding the basic principles of conservatism and libertarianism,” she said. “A lot of people jump to conclusions about what you believe when you label yourself as such.”

Mariel Arias ’19 similarly said that the atmosphere of the event was refreshing. He explained, “While we had different views, it was apparent that we all just wanted to be respected, heard and the ability to have productive conversations with our peers. Dickinson has failed us in creating an environment where we can do that.”

While students at the meeting expressed disappointment at Dickinson for what they perceive as failing to help conservative and libertarian students, attendees added that the school also provided some key resources for their aid.

“I think the College Republicans are a very good resource to have on campus, and I think the conservative-libertarian dinner was a refreshing opportunity to have voices heard,” Tellis added. “Classroom environments can also be very constructive with the right professor.”

Grant Shearer ’19, who is the outgoing president of the College Republicans, said he wants Dickinson to be more inclusive to conservative/libertarian students. “I have never missed an opportunity to discuss issues and bring forth concerns,” Shearer said, “While I think the meeting was good to have and greatly appreciate the organizers I have no faith that the administration will do anything to create real change.” Shearer suggested that one step the school could take to improve political diversity was “to get political ideology included in the diversity education incoming first-years get during orientation.”

Lawrence said she took a large quantity of notes during the event. “I took over three pages of notes and it was very informative for me to hear from students, many of whom I never met,” she said.

“My hope is that all students, regardless of their political ideology, feel empowered to speak up in the classroom and defend their ideas with evidence,” Niebler said.

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