In recent years, college campuses have become increasingly radical, illiberal, and intolerant of dissenting opinions. Students, too scared to voice their true thoughts and feelings, often conform. They fear they will face ridicule or, worse, total exclusion via “cancel culture.” But a few brave students are fighting against the tide, including these five, who all come from different backgrounds but are united in their desire for a true liberal arts education, where all ideas are shared and respected. They told The Post why they refuse to be silenced.
College: Princeton University
Year : Junior
Hometown: Moved frequently
Growing up, my family moved about every other year for my dad’s job as a legal consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, and we lived in mainly blue states, like Michigan, California, and New Jersey. I was relatively apolitical before attending college because my ballet training at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia was from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, so I never had the time to engage in politics.
When I entered university, however, I was genuinely shocked by the pervasiveness of wokeness on campus. Our freshman orientation mandated attendance at what were essentially indoctrination sessions. The “SaferSexpo,” for example, gave out condoms and sex toys to students and informed us where we could obtain abortion pills.
I felt uncomfortable discussing intimacy and sex with other freshmen I had just met, and, as a Catholic, I was disappointed that a more conservative approach to sexuality was fully ignored. But, as a brand-new arrival on campus, I chose not to say anything.
Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, virtually all student organizations adopted an “anti-racist” mission with an emphasis on “inclusivity.” I’m a member of the recreational ballet club, and the elected officers sent an email, stating that “our perceptions of ballet have been shaped by white supremacist standards.” Though I found the statement objectionable, I didn’t say anything publicly at the time and remained a member.
But many of these experiences eventually led me to be outspoken on campus. I am now President of our Federalist Society Chapter. I work on The Princeton Tory, our conservative publication. I’ve also co-authored statements for the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, including one defending academic freedom.
I’ve received messages from peers saying that they agreed with my comments in class about my pro-life stance, but they felt uncomfortable vocalizing their support. I know students who refrain from sharing their personal beliefs because they fear the social, academic and professional consequences.
Unfortunately, these concerns are valid. I’ve seen friends lose club leadership positions, like a friend of mine who lost her post as captain of a campus sports team for expressing support for the police. Others have lost summer internship positions for signing the open letter I co-authored defending academic freedom.
It’s difficult to believe I’m a political outsider, because I’m inclined to think that my ideological stances are moderate. A majority of my views were completely anodyne only five years ago. I struggle to understand how opposition to modern gender ideology or support for free speech is partisan or controversial, but I will not abandon reason and self-evident truths to satisfy my peers’ feelings.
College: University of British Columbia
Major: Classical Studies
Hometown: Arlington, Virginia
Growing up in the Beltway, from as early as I can recall progressive politics had a strong influence on my life. In high school, I was the president of Young Democrats and volunteered for a variety of progressive candidates. By the time I arrived at UBC, I was skeptical of social justice ideology but still thought of myself as a progressive. I saw identity politics as a distraction from class issues, and ultimately a threat to the one value I thought all Americans held paramount: free speech.
When I got to campus, however, I found the core tenets of social justice are taken as objective truths, not viewpoints that should be vigorously debated. I quickly learned not to write papers going against the established narrative for fear of being marked down. As a classics major, for example, I’d love to frame Western tradition in a positive light, though most of my professors prefer to bash it. The most pressing issues of our time —from gender ideology and COVID restrictions to the geopolitical threat of China — can’t even be asked without walking on eggshells. In my freshman year in 2019, a philosophy professor even once apologized for using “gendered language” while reading a quote from Plato.
In an art class my freshman year, we were told to make a “politically provocative” sign. My sign featured Justin Trudeau putting his hand over Jordan Peterson’s mouth with the heading “Free Speech is Un-Canadian.” My TA promptly interrupted my presentation to tell the class about how I was “platforming bigotry and transphobia.” I failed the assignment.
During the George Floyd protests in 2020, I responded to the unrest on Instagram with what I saw as a unifying message, “The greatest revolutionary act you can commit right now is the refusal to hate your fellow Americans.” I was already known for being outspoken on campus, but even so, I was shocked by the reaction to the post. A prominent campus activist took to social media to accuse me of being racist and even went as far as to threaten the reputations of those who lived and associated themselves with me.
Although I stand up for my principles, I now tend to be far less provocative when doing so. Encouragingly, I’ve been able to cross the political divide with some open-minded people, but I still feel a large shift in my interactions when people are aware of my beliefs, even though I identify as a political independent. There’s no room for forgiveness whatsoever. That’s the most pernicious element of the ideology.
College: Alma College
Hometown: Delhi, India
I had a very normal middle-class childhood in India. I was raised in a right-wing Hindu family and was staunchly religious with very conservative beliefs. But in high school I reconsidered the values I was raised with. I became agnostic, realizing I was way too closed-minded with different people, and began to recognize my own prejudices.
Within India’s cultural context I was seen as a liberal, so when I came to America for college it was instinctive for me to identify with liberals there, too. But, when I got to campus, I realized wokeness was vastly different from my classical liberal values. Progressives back home fight for women to have fundamental rights, while progressives on my campus hang pictures of Mao in their dorm room.
I remember being handed a 15 page list of words I can and cannot use during a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion orientation for a campus job as a biology teaching assistant. I couldn’t say “born male,” I had to say “sex assigned at birth male.” “Ladies and gentlemen” should be replaced with “folks,” and “opposite sexes” should be changed to “all genders.”
In another mandatory orientation program, I was told that a professor complimenting an international student’s English would be racist. Incidentally, this happened to me in the past, and I took it as a compliment rather than an insult. In moments like these, I’ve seen just how much the woke worldview can trivialize actual bigotry. Back home, bigotry manifests in serious forms — even physically, like rape culture. Seeing that be conflated with relatively benign inconveniences on college campuses is hard for me to swallow.
Another time, my professor taught the class how to find what “triggers” them. Growing up on the streets of Delhi, there are triggers everywhere you look — so-called “microaggressions” are nothing compared to animal carcasses on the streets and malnourished children begging at every red light. I don’t know how my peers who treat every minor insult as a microaggression will survive outside the gates of their liberal campus.
Because I’ve been outspoken on campus about my disagreements with the woke orthodoxy, I’ve been called every name in the book on social media — ironically, they’re too scared to say it to my face, though. I could play the victim card, but I refuse to. I take solace in the fact I’m making a difference by speaking out, and I’ve made invaluable connections with like-minded professors and students alike along the way.
College: Allegheny College
Hometown: Norwalk, Connecticut
I’m the son of immigrant parents and a first generation college student. My father immigrated from El Salvador and my mother from the Philippines. My parents were always hardworking and did right by me, so I believe in picking yourself up by your bootstraps and working for what you want in life, rather than depending on the government to solve your problems.
I’ve faced some blowback for being the president of Allegheny’s College Republicans chapter. When I participated in a debate my freshman year, for example, some people asked me, “Why are you a Republican? Aren’t you Hispanic?” Yes, I am Hispanic, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t dictate my personal beliefs. I don’t believe that coming from a particular ethnic, social, or economic background means you have to conform to what the majority of that group believes politically. Students are supposed to grow as academics and young adults during their college years, but identity politics can cause them to keep a closed mind and keep to what their specific demographic has historically believed. Part of being an American is standing up for what you believe, not what other people tell you to.
College: Friends University
Major: Psychology and political science
Hometown: Los Angeles
I’m your stereotypical kid from LA. I surf, skate, and I’m into fashion. I also happen to be the president and founder of my school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.
Unfortunately, my YAF chapter has faced some challenges on campus. The administration denied us permission to host our 9/11 Never Forget and Freedom Week events. At the 9/11 event we had planned to put up flags representing lives lost on that tragic day, and at Freedom Week we sought to educate students about the perils of communism.
I’ve had professors mark down my grade for disagreeing with them politically. For example, in a sociology class, I expressed disagreement with the professor on the gender wage gap in a paper and provided my sources. When my paper was returned? I saw “Do not agree, wrong” written in red pen. Although I consistently got A’s in that class, I received a B on this paper. I was upset, but I realized arguing with the professor wouldn’t get me anything but consistent grade markdowns.
Personally, I have gotten some heat for working with YAF. As a person of color, I am seen as a contrarian. Growing up, I was taught that the left cares about us minorities, while anyone who aligns with the right is racist. Some people on campus think this way and see my activism as a betrayal. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom, but I don’t let it bother me.
Free speech has been pushed to the wayside for political correctness and cancel culture in campuses across America. I started my YAF chapter so students have a place where they can be so comfortable expressing their ideas among their peers, they’re no longer afraid to express them outside of our meetings.