The perspective of Chatham University conservative students on attending a historically liberal school

By Abigail Kneuss

Have you ever gotten into a political argument on campus? Maybe it’s that guy in your political science class who gets you heated, or that girl who’s always loudly voicing her opinion that you don’t agree with. Regardless of who triggers this reaction, almost everyone has had that experience with a fellow student.

Historically, Chatham University has expressed views that align with liberal and progressive schools of thought, but it’s open and accepting to all.

The Chatham University official website states that “Chatham is committed to creating a supportive and inclusive learning, living and working environment for all members of the campus community.”

During orientation, guest presenter Dr. Jamie Washington gave a speech wherein first-year students were asked to stand to represent their political affiliation. A vast majority of the first-year class stood for liberal and Democratic labels.

So, where does this leave Chatham University students who consider themselves to be conservative? Three first-years who identify as Republicans spoke on the issue.

One person who wished to remain anonymous because they’ve already received backlash for conservative views noted that Dr. Washington didn’t say “thank you” to those who stood for conservative beliefs, as he did for those who stood for liberal and Democratic ones.

This student also mentioned that more conservative ideas are considered “radical and dangerous by most” and thought perhaps it was a wrong decision to choose coming to Chatham.

“Chatham distorts what the real world is and are blind to it. … People are extra sensitive here. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut,” the anonymous student said. This person added that they don’t feel respected as a person and have gotten in numerous fights with peers over political issues at Chatham.

This student added that they were aware of Chatham’s beliefs and standards before enrolling “but I thought, ‘it can’t be that bad,’ it wasn’t until I got here that I was like ‘wow.’”

Jacob Kauffman ’23 also holds Republican and conservative beliefs.

First-year students Jacob Kauffman and Gregg Heitkamp’s Trump banner in their dorm room. Photo by Abigail Kneuss.

“I was raised the most conservative that you can be. If you talk to me, I’m pretty sure I make it obvious,” he said.

Kauffman was drawn to Chatham University because of the lacrosse team and nursing program. When asked what his most conservative view is, he said gun control.

“I wish I could carry on Chatham’s campus,” Kauffman said.

He hasn’t felt like his views have affected his life at Chatham University because he surrounds himself with like-minded people.

“I don’t feel alienated here,” Kauffman said. “I’m just tired of talking about identities. I’m tired of talking about being white. People hate me for being white. In today’s society it’s seen as a bad thing.”

During orientation, Gregg Heitkamp ’23 identified as Republican but stood for “moderate” when asked about his conservative/liberal views.

Heitkamp said he feels comfortable sharing his political views with the student body, but he has to be careful because “crazy people come at you and you have to tell them to chill out.”

“Honestly so many teachers here will lean heavily toward one point of view here, especially on environmental issues,” Heitkamp said. “It feels like their views are being pushed down my throat sometimes.”

Like Kauffman, Heitkamp was drawn here by the lacrosse team and nursing program.

First-year conservatives students Jacob Kauffman (left) and Gregg Heitkamp.

He admitted that he wasn’t aware of Chatham University’s views until he got here, but he would still recommend Chatham to a student who shares his views because he feels like the University still respects him.