The Norton Family Center for the Common Good hosted conservative speaker Lauren Noble on April 11, 2016, for a discussion entitled, “Being Conservative at Loomis Chaffee.” As founder and executive director of the William F. Buckley Jr. Program at Yale University, Ms. Noble spoke about the difficulties in expressing conservative views in a liberal environment. Following a string of speakers, which some students claimed leaned too far left, Ms. Noble brought some much needed intellectual diversity to the Island.
Growing up in a liberal environment, Ms. Noble recounted the challenges of expressing her opinions when they strayed from the norms of her community and even her family. When campuses have uniform ideologies, she explained, speaking up with a dissenting view can be difficult or intimidating. Ms. Noble described that at a place like Yale, a “middle” or “moderate” position is construed as being “far right.”
Ms. Noble expressed her concerns regarding free speech, as she worried that individual freedom of speech was being relinquished simply because someone with an opposing opinion might be made uncomfortable. She stressed the importance of not shutting down other opinions, but rather disagreeing, asking tough questions, and engaging in intelligent conversation.
Mrs. Vicky Scanlon did just that by asking where the free speech issue stems from. Her question led to valuable discussion and constructive debate. “Students are encouraged to avoid points of view that might make them uncomfortable,” said Ms. Noble, illustrating the lack of intellectual dissent on high school and college campuses. These campuses, she said, are meant to be places where students are exposed to a diverse range of viewpoints and opinions, and where they can decide for themselves the positions they might have on political or social issues. By shouting down or refusing to listen to opposing opinions, a critical part of high school or college education is lost.
At the discussion, LC students explained their struggles in expressing their views that differ from the general community in fear that they might be labeled “wrong” because they present a different viewpoint. Conservative students expressed that in some classes, they feel threatened to an overwhelming political imbalance within the classroom. This imbalance can be harmful to campuses and Ms. Noble urged the importance of conservative students speaking up to help break the uniformity.