Perils of being a conservative at Williams

When you hear the words “Gore-Lieberman 2000,” “New York Senate race” and “Supreme Court appointments,” there are certain standard ideas that leap to mind. Well, there are people on this campus for whom the gut reaction to those words and phrases is different from these. And I’m one of those people.

Hi. My name is Olesia, and I’m a conservative. And I have come to the conclusion that there is no general acceptance on this campus for opinions that do not coincide with the mainstream attitude. This was most clearly demonstrated to me last year during the “Whose Responsibility Is It?” campaign. For those who were not here or do not remember, the campaign, led by Biniam Gebre ’00, aimed to call the campus’ attention to the presence of people less fortunate and to counteract the so-called “Purple Bubble” effect. (The theory goes, once students settle into Williams life, they cease to pay attention to world affairs or acknowledge the existence of people fundamentally unlike themselves.)

The campus was decorated with placards containing striking quotes and statistics, poster paper on which people were to write their opinions on the campaign and the issues it raised, and poster-sized photos of, for example, starving children in third world countries: all well-intended efforts to gain support for those in need. This campaign also had an undeniably liberal tenor: “social justice” was clearly the theme, and social justice is a token phrase of the enlightened liberal agenda.

At some point during the campaign, a few students noticed that there was an oppressed group of people nowhere represented in the campaign: the unborn. That’s right: shockingly, this overwhelmingly liberal effort failed to espouse the pro-life cause, which has of course long been associated with the conservative agenda. The campaign leaders were allowed to make their own decisions about which issues their work would spotlight. That’s only fair.

So the people who noticed the omission decided that they would themselves take responsibility (hmm…) and put up posters that contained pro-life messages and information in Baxter, Griffin and Hopkins Halls, among other places. Some of the posters also contained graphic photos (not unlike the photos associated with the “Responsibility” initiative). Because they were posted in a very public setting, they were covered with black fabric – if you wanted to see the pictures, you could, but no innocent or unsuspecting person was going to be assaulted by pro-life propaganda. The first set of posters in Baxter lasted a matter of hours. It was replaced by a second batch, which did not even last an hour. Issues of vandalism, if I recall correctly, were also raised in conjunction with the “Responsibility” decorations. In the case of the pro-life postings, the person responsible for removing them identified himself or herself. This person was never punished; apparently the controversy of the pro-life issue was such that the deans did not think that it would be appropriate to take action.

This situation is an excellent illustration of my point. Like the “Responsibility” posters, the pro-life literature was the property of someone other than the vandal. To the best of my knowledge, the people responsible for vandalizing the “Responsibility” effort’s decorations were never identified. But this campus heard about that destruction anyway. The only source from which I heard about the destruction of the pro-life information was the Newman Society listserver. When traditionally liberal causes – gay pride, anti-racism, social justice – are threatened, there is a positive uproar on this campus. When conservative ideals are attacked, there is silence. Ironically, in this community of acceptance and tolerance, the only thing it is not “okay” to be is a conservative.