Post-election, many Americans have been in a state of shock, and this feeling has been especially pronounced within universities, as noted in the Nov. 14 news article “At deep-blue Yale , students shocked by Trump victory ” and as I’ve seen at my own university, Rutgers University. Almost instantly, many ceased to feel safe or understood, and now feel as if they are unwelcome aliens. But these feelings are not new to the domain of academia: This is the experience of most conservative academics and has been for decades.
Conservative academics hide their political beliefs in response to both overt and covert hostility from colleagues, and are often subject to harassment and marginalization. So maybe this is a unique opportunity to revisit the concept of empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — and its power to convict and motivate us toward change. Perhaps out of their present experiences liberal academics can gain a sliver of insight into the pervasive experiences of their conservative (or non-liberal) colleagues, and moving forward can work to make their departments and universities welcoming to those who think differently. Where there is viewpoint diversity, ideas and research truly flourish.
Nathan Honeycutt, Arroyo Grande, Calif.