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Students Experience Post-election Tension on Campus

Editor’s Note: The following story includes a first-person account.

For a small group of Mills students the morning after the presidential election was not a sad one. They were neither angry nor depressed. These women are the Republican minority of Mills.

In a college climate where diversity and understanding are promoted, one woman said she was attacked verbally and physically due to her political beliefs.

“Every time I try to bring up a point it’s not even listened to, people assume [their opinion] is what everyone else is feeling,” Alice* said.

When Alice was walking home from a class on Nov. 3 she was approached by a student she did not know, who asked her whether she voted for Bush. When Alice didn’t respond, she said the girl slapped her across the face and walked away.

“I was really shaken up about it,” Alice said.

In her first English class at Mills, Alice received a C- on a paper and when she asked her professor why she did so poorly, she was startled by her response.

“[The professor] said that my paper was too conservative and thus too simplistic” she said.

Alice is not alone in her experiences. I have had my own encounters on campus, which revealed that many Mills students are unaware of the diverse political viewpoints of the student body. Whenever I make my viewpoint known, a hushed awkwardness seems to overcome the classroom. Whether it is the students or the faculty there is an unconscious disregard for students who support President Bush and his administration.

“It hurts me that people can’t see that it is so ridiculous, I mean if Kerry had won I wouldn’t have slapped them,” Alice said. “It’s what the majority of the country believes, not just one person like me.”

Alice said she found herself feeling very alone the day after the election. Her friends were avoiding her and days later she received an e-mail from president Janet Holmgren addressed to the student body which said, “ We should not let any current feelings about the election results cloud our vision of what it means to be engaged, caring citizens of America and the world.” Alice was offended by her statement and felt that the e-mail was an attempt at consoling the student body about the outcome of the election.

What Alice wanted was for students, faculty and staff to be aware that not everyone on campus shares discontent with President Bush.

She doesn’t feel that Mills is understanding or accepting of her political views.

“Not at all is Mills accepting,” she said, with the exception of a few Republicans. “I’m really reserved now as opposed to before I came here. I was so much more politically active in high school and now I’m just not.”

At a college where strongwomen’s voices and confidence are encouraged, there seems to be an adverse effect on Alice and other minority Republicans on campus.

Sophomore Zoe Tollefson said, “I’m not a Republican so I don’t know what it’s like but I do recognize that people have a difficult time in separating opinions from their status as a human being. [As a Republican] you’re judged instead of having an open forum to discuss issues and you end up being chastised for it.”

Alice said that had she known the predominantly liberal attitude on campus before coming to Mills, she wouldn’t have come.

“I am actually thinking of transferring to UCLA, I just fit in better there,” she said.

In response to the physical and verbal attack she experienced, Alice is working with the Office of Student Life to form a committee in response to her being slapped because of her political views.

Moire Bruin, Asst. Dean of Students and director of Resident and Commuting Life, said, “It’s about how we can bring awareness and give students what they need to do so. We clearly have to start planting seeds [in the community] in order to have discussions, whatever the platform. I think it’s important.”

“This committee will hopefully bring awareness to the Mills community,” she said.

Despite some negative experiences, freshwoman Beka Clark has found some benefits from being a Republican on campus.

“Some of the students I find have respect for my views in the same way that I have respect for their views and in that way we've been able to have some of the most fulfilling political debates I think I’ve ever experienced,” Clark said.

Post-election, however Clark ran into some problems.

“I didn’t even see any of the girls I know on campus, later I found out that they had all been avoiding me because they were angry that ‘I’ had won,” Clark said.

Before the election Clark was offended when she saw a sign on a friend’s door reading, “no conservatives allowed.”

Clark feels that there are steps students can take to establish a more positive atmosphere on campus.

“I think it would benefit us all if we tried to have an objective view and instead of feeling personal resentment towards other views, we respect them,” she said.

To get an idea of what Alice, Clark and other Republicans like myself at Mills feel, imagine you’re a blonde sitting in a classroom where there are remarks from the professor as well as the students making fun of blondes. Imagine that before entering your friend’s room you notice a sign reading, “no blondes allowed.” It’s doubtful that anyone would feel comfortable on a campus like that. Now imagine what it would be like for a Republican at Mills.

Maybe the next time you are sitting in your class and feel that it is okay to make comments that are not relevant but you feel it’s okay because you assume everyone agrees—stop and remember this story and remember your fellow students and try to be aware and respectful.

*Name has been changed