Junior broadcast journalism and Documentary major Justin Buckner recalls a horrible harkening from his freshman year. His professor was telling the class how Trump was anti-immigration, Buckner refuted this claim, explaining Trump was only against illegal immigration. Instantly, he was verbally attacked by eight students and the professor who all claimed he knew nothing about politics.
Since then, he’s realized he’s had to become more immune to the critics and be as knowledgeable and articulate as he can to defend himself and other conservatives.
“Being a Republican on a college campus is a grind because you know that wherever you go, you are the minority, and if you openly express your beliefs, the majority of the school is not going to like you,” Buckner, who is also Chapman Republican’s president, says.
Political polarization is nothing new for a college campus; universities are breeding grounds for education, highlight different perspectives, and discourse. However, since the somewhat contested 2020 election, several events have highlighted just how divided students have become.
Junior political science major and Chapman University Young Democrats, also known as “ChapDems”, president Yusuf Baqai shared similar feelings even as he stands on the other side of the aisle, politically speaking.
“I have never felt uncomfortable sharing my beliefs with people; however, I feel that my beliefs do get mistaken for attacks and result in unnecessary arguments,” Baqai said.
He shared that he and other club members have felt tension and been in similarly uncomfortable situations. Baqai’s approach to politics is to share your beliefs and try to stay civil.
On Nov 6, Chapman Republicans posted a picture of President Donald Trump and used the caption to explain how appalled they were to have “witnessed an attempt to win this election through dishonest and criminal means.”
As the post made rounds through Chapman’s student body, a conservative personality reposted the image on his story and asked his followers to support the fellow conservatives.
This post instantly blew up, with a current tally of 1,115 likes and 1,571 comments. The comment section was flooded with students and politically motivated spectators alike, all in adamant agreement or blatantly mocking the post.
Senior business administration major Jackie Nikoloff was personally attacked on the post-election post from the Chapman Republicans Instagram. Though she admits to making many satirical remarks and comments intended on informing, she still feels there is no reason for her to be called a “Russian skank” on a university organization’s post and has said the group involved had no repercussions.
“They not only used slurs like skank, but they also were extremely homophobic to many students by making fun of their gender identities and sexualities, and were extremely sexist–making fun of a woman for just being a woman,” Nikoloff said.
She also noted other instances of body-shaming, telling people to shave, and direct messaging Biden supporters, and commenting on old photos to ridicule their appearances and education.
Nikoloff hopes for an apology or statement for Chapman Republicans about the harassment but doubts that one will come.
A less momentous occasion occurred when an anonymous Republican, who only showed his Trump hat and flag on screen, zoom-bombed a ChapDems meeting. He asked the club president to play a clip of Biden stutters, then proceeded to yell a streamline of insults and slurs, yelling, “Trump 2020 you fucking bitch, Trump 2020 you fucking libtards, eat shit!” at the group members until he was removed from the meeting.
The zealous political spirit of students even seeped into the Civic Engagement office. An event on educating students about California ballot propositions had to be canceled due to concern over a bias or unintentional sway.
Student Civic Engagement worker and sophomore peace studies and psychology major Elise Barnathan understands the concern, but can’t help feeling frustrated by the political atmosphere.
“It’s a rational fear because I can acknowledge we all had our biases, but it’s so frustrating because we felt like we couldn’t do our job as the voter education team,” she says.
Though the divisiveness seems to blossom online, sociology professor Victoria Carty said , “At the university level we are certainly capable of understanding competing thoughts and come to our own conclusions, without rejecting the voices of those who may disagree.”
Professor John Compton, the chair of the Political Science department, is glad to report that no class has gotten needed to change it’s curriculum to due to student tensions.
He advises students to expand their friend groups and have more than one political ideology present. He said ,” It’s harder to demonize people once you spend some time with them and have some shared interest.”
If someone wanted to actively change another’s mind, Compton recommends the same advice. He said , “You have to make a human connection before you can change anyone’s mind.
To any professors struggling to prompt political discussions, he reminds them to stay with facts, and ask students to evaluate said facts without clinging to their partisanship.
“The ability to evaluate issues and evidence with an open mind is an important element of democratic citizenship, and it’s a skill that, if it isn’t learned and practiced in college, may never be learned at all,” says Compton.
Junior strategic and corporate communications major Talar Nourian seconds Buckner’s sentiment.. She also felt villainized for her views but feels that, “Nothing in this world is going to move forward if everyone defaults to hatred. I don’t believe that’s the answer, rather, if people accepted that not everyone has the same opinion as them, I feel as though we’d move forward more peacefully and genuinely have more respect for one another.”
Baqai hopes that once Biden transitions into office in January, the intense polarization between the two parties can start to die down. However, if Trump refuses to concede, there’s no telling how it could impact the student body.