As a native of South Carolina, I know what it is like to be the odd one out when it comes to politics. I grew up in a town where the majority of people were conservative. As a result of this, I was influenced by my teachers, church leaders, peers and other people around me when it came to my own political views. However, once I was older, I started gaining knowledge on the many aspects of politics and, as a result, I started questioning most of what I had been told growing up. I was able to start forming my own opinions and beliefs about the world and how our government should be run in relation to it and our citizens.
When entering Wofford, I was excited to see what the new chapter in my life would bring. I expected many people of many different backgrounds to bring forward new ideas that would, in turn, help me to question my own understanding of the world as well as myself. I would not say that I was disappointed by my expectations, however, I was shocked. Instead of my own views being in the majority (an expectation I did not think would even be a question at a private, liberal arts college), I realized that I was in the minority.
At Wofford, the majority of students on campus are conservative, as well as many alumni, staff members and faculty. Thankfully I have never been made to feel that my opinions are not valuable inside a classroom by any of my professors, whether or not they agree with me. However, I sometimes feel uncomfortable voicing my opinions to other students outside of a classroom setting.
As a liberal on a conservative campus, for the most part I am judged for my beliefs before I have even had a chance to explain them. I am a firm believer that everyone has a right to their own opinions, even if their opinion differs vastly from my own. I think healthy debate is something to be valued and employed often, because even if you aren’t able to convince someone to change their ideologies to your own, at least you are able to gain a better understanding of their perspective and reasoning.
Another issue that I have had on campus so far is that some of the alumni have been very vocal at times in voicing their opinions about things they believe should be changed back to the old, traditional ways of Wofford. I value our alumni very much and am very proud to say that I am a third generation legacy at Wofford. However, many things have changed in the past 50 years that I wholeheartedly believe make Wofford the wonderful place that I have been able to call home for the past year and a half.
I attended a presentation on Monday, Feb. 20th in Leonard Auditorium at Wofford called “Being Muslim in America: America, Muslims and the Middle East in a World of Conflict” by Dr. Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University. This event was open to the public, not only to Wofford students. During the presentation, Dr. Safi addressed not only what it was like to be a Muslim in America, but also what it was like to be African American, Hispanic, a woman or any other minority. As he was presenting, there were surveys being passed around where people attending were able to fill out and give feedback about the talk. Throughout the entire lecture, I was mesmerized. Not only was Dr. Safi conveying many of my own beliefs, but he was also helping me to question what I thought was the truth in order to change the way I approached my beliefs. I left a few minutes early from the lecture during the questions section because I had homework to finish, however, as I was dropping off my survey in the box, the survey on top of the stack caught my eye. It was from a graduate of Wofford and in the comment section it described the lecture as a “disgusting diatribe on America.”
This is the main issue that concerns me about Wofford. One of the few times we have a lecturer that is liberal, conservative people (who voluntarily attend the lecture) are outraged that Wofford would allow such a “disgusting diatribe” to be presented on campus. I, as a liberal, went to President Trump’s campaign speech he presented at Wofford in November 2015, not because I agreed with what he was presenting, but because I was genuinely interested in exposing myself to his ideology and plans for America if he were to be elected.
College is for learning more about yourself and the world around you. In order to do that you must be exposed to all of the varying opinions from the world around you so you can gain a better sense of understanding. Even though I am in the minority at Wofford, it has helped me to strengthen my reasoning for my own beliefs while also achieving a rational understanding and respect for those around me who believe differently.