Students express political beliefs at Conservative ‘Coming Out’ Day

Some are offended by the Conservative 'Coming Out' Day being modeled after the QSCC coming out ceremony.

Amber Schadewald

A student group declared today Conservative “Coming Out” Day, giving students a chance to publicly express their conservative beliefs.

The event is part of The Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow’s Conservative Awareness Week, encouraging conservative students to openly voice their opinions on campus.

Each day during the week has a specific theme, today’s being “coming out,” which is modeled after the Queer Student Cultural Center’s annual coming out ceremony for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally students, said CFAC vice president Laura Gatz.

But members of that community are disappointed in the comparison.

Gatz said because conservatives are minorities on campus, their voices often go unheard.

“The goal of the week is to voice conservative ideas,” she said. “It will be a learning experience for the whole campus.”

Students will have the option to walk through a red, white and blue arch in front of Coffman Union, declaring themselves conservatives.

Gatz said coming out as a conservative is a way to stand up and not be afraid of the identity.

Conservatives are criticized severely due to the liberal bias here on campus, she said.

“As a student, you shouldn’t have to hide behind who you are, regardless of your beliefs,” she said.

Mike Grewe, math senior and QSCC member, said his initial question when he heard about conservative “coming out” was, “why (did) they feel they need to come out when their rights are protected?”

He said he recognizes people with conservative beliefs are minorities on campus and, therefore, they probably do face some discrimination.

“But to compare themselves with the injustices facing the GLBT community is absurd at best,” Grewe said.

The parallel with the QSCC’s coming out week is not meant to be offensive, Gatz said, and instead she called it flattery. She said CFAC admired the group’s ability to proudly claim their identities and ideals.

She said more minorities should use similar framework to announce their opinions.

Members of the GLBT community “shouldn’t be the only ones to say we’re coming out,” she said. “They can’t make claims on (the term) ‘coming out.’ “

Grewe said he thought CFAC’s interpretation of the coming out process is insensitive and ignorant to the actual issues.

WHERE TO GO

Conservative “Coming out” day
WHAT: Speech by Jason Lewis
WHEN: 8 p.m. today
WHERE: 250 Anderson Hall

“Education or indoctrination?” day
WHAT: “Confessions of the Academic Conservatives”
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: 250 Anderson Hall

Conservatives can marry and raise children, they are not harassed for holding hands with their significant other and they don’t have to be worried about being ostracized for coming out to their friends and family, he said.

“What are they coming out from?” he asked.

Andy Larson, a history and political science junior and president of CFAC, said people often tell him that conservatives aren’t real minorities, but he disagrees. Conservatives have things happen to them that are unfair too, he said.

Ken Doyle, a journalism associate professor, said students with conservative values often come to him in tears, frustrated by the feeling that they cannot be open and honest about their opinions in class or on assignments.

“Many conservative students are concerned that moderate to conservative ideas don’t get fair treatment in classrooms,” he said.

Doyle said he thinks Conservative Awareness Week is a good way to expand the marketplace of ideas and get students thinking about other views across the spectrum.

“The left side is healthy and can take care of itself quite well,” he said. “It’s time to broaden the range.”

Larson said he doesn’t think the group’s message or the title of the event is out of line.

The more provocative, he said, the more people will pay attention.

Justin Henry, a political science junior and secretary of the campus DFL, said the week’s events encourage students to make their political voice heard, and he encouraged students to “come out” regardless of whether it’s on the left or right.

On the other hand, comparing conservatives to members of the GLBT community is not an accurate analogy, he said.

“There may be more liberals on campus, but there are no laws against being conservative,” he said. “That’s a whole other kind of discrimination.”

Larson said he expected to get complaints, but blames it on the negative atmosphere and bias the group is surrounded by.

“There’s nothing we can do that won’t make somebody mad,” he said.

Michael Lent, a biochemistry junior and member of the GLBT community, said he’s offended by CFAC using the term “coming out” for their event and said he thought the group could’ve found another way to convey their message.

As for coming out in a political sense, Lent said he thought it should be reserved for the GLBT community.

“I don’t think there is a political closet,” he said.