Liberal on a Conservative Campus: Finding Community in Difference

by Abigail Dibadj

When Donald Trump declared his candidacy in June of 2015, I had taken his announcement as a joke. A rich real-estate mogul known for a TV show and the saying “you’re fired” trying to play politics would be hilarious to watch. So to my surprise when I arrived at the University of Dayton from the bubble that is the Chicago suburbs, I found students on my floor who found Donald Trump to not be a joke, but rather a viable candidate with whom they resonated with and represented their beliefs. This was my first introduction to being a liberal on a conservative campus.

UD 2At the University of Dayton the College Republicans is twice the size of the College Democrats, it is not uncommon to find a Trump flag in a student’s house, and there has been events held at the UD arena for Ohio Right to Life with the featured speaker of Ben Carson. A liberal on this campus may feel lost and even unwanted. I certainly did, until I joined UD’s College Democrats. The University of Dayton College Democrats provides a small group of individuals who are forward thinking and like minded. At meetings candidates for many different government positions are often present, giving student’s opportunities to become involved and further their interests in politics. Open discussion is held as well, giving student’s time to address certain issues they are passionate about or simply a chance to rant. One of the first meetings I attended had a representative from Ohio Together, working to elect Hillary Clinton as President. I knew that this was an opportunity I could not miss and signed up to volunteer immediately.

Abigail is a junior at the University of Dayton majoring in political science.

When working for the Hillary Clinton campaign volunteers walked door to door around the student neighborhood, registering voters and campaigning. At first I was intimidated, approaching students of whose political affiliation you are unaware of is a daunting task, but I soon began to appreciate these interactions due to the candid conversations that were generated from political difference. In conversations where the student expressed their support for Donald Trump I would listen as to why the student supported him and then I would simply share my beliefs, not trying to change their mind, but raising a different perspective. I found discussions like these the most enjoyable. Having someone challenge my beliefs caused me to do research that gave me support for my opinions and for Hillary, giving me a stronger base to hold my convictions. It also allowed me to understand why some students wanted to vote for Donald Trump and why they held conservative beliefs, drawing me closer into the community that is UD. Instead of the animosity that is often seen between the two parties on Congress, there was open conversation and a double-sided want to understand and listen between students. Although University of Dayton is a conservative campus, there is a community here accepting and open to both liberals and conservatives.

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