After over a year of being nearly barren, Stanford’s campus burst back to life last month. For nearly half of Stanford undergraduates, this quarter is their first spent on campus. Holding right-of-center views at Stanford may make you feel out of place at a school where self-identified socialists outnumber Republicans nearly 2:1. That said, there is a lot to like as a conservative here. So, to the hundreds of conservatives new to campus, this is my advice to you.
While I believe firmly in the importance of politics, there is more to life than red and blue, especially in one’s college years. Stanford students by and large are more focused on their own lives and goals than they are with politics, aside from the vocal 5-10% of lefties driving campus activism. Yes, they have an outsized voice when promoting the latest left-wing causes, or when smearing and protesting mainstream conservatives, but much to their chagrin most Stanford students are really more concerned with their own lives.
I laughed when my PWR class read an article with the line, “The evil of the Republican Party’s position on climate science is well known,” and a critique of the article from the left. It’s a shame that things like that are the norm here (and everywhere), but there’s little we as conservatives can do to change it now. What we can do is not let each example of the leftist conquest of higher education ruin our experience at a world class institution with remarkable people everywhere you look.
The absolute worst thing to do is misrepresent your views for the misguided reason that doing so will make you fit in. Saying nothing at all -- or nothing of substance -- is easy enough in uncomfortable situations. That said, my general approach to this is pretty simple: if someone won’t like me simply because of my political views, he isn’t someone worth spending time with anyway. It’s not worth going to bat at every opportunity, but being afraid to say anything ever is a losing strategy as well. Speak your mind, but pick your battles.
One of the best things about being in the relatively small group of conservatives at Stanford is that we have some great opportunities available to us. While at most schools of Stanford’s caliber you might be lucky to take a class or two with a professor who is a genuine conservative, at Stanford there are dozens of Hoover Institution fellows that teach classes, many of them directed towards undergraduates.
I took five classes taught by Hoover fellows my freshman year alone. It’s an opportunity that curious students of any political persuasion should make use of, but given the stigma for a committed leftist of learning something from a place like Hoover, it’s mostly up to us conservatives to take advantage. Beyond classes, Hoover offers research opportunities, hosts speakers, and houses arguably the most incredible collection of twentieth century history in the world.
It’s also worth mentioning that the College Republicans frequently bring prominent conservative speakers to campus -- the small number of conservative students allows for access to prominent figures many liberal students would dream of.
So, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the publication of God and Man at Yale next month, conservatives can take solace in knowing that there is still a lot to like about what Stanford offers, despite Buckley’s assessment of American universities largely coming to fruition in the interceding years.