Being Republican at Berkeley

"I have been spit on on several occasions. I have had drinks thrown on me. I have been punched in the face."

The New York Times interviewed five UC Berkeley Republicans on their experiences at the famously illiberal bastion of radical leftist intolerance.

"Founded in the 1960s," the Times notes,

the Berkeley College Republicans have remained a small and tightknit club, today numbering a few dozen active members...

Berkeley’s Republicans have turned the tables on liberals at the campus, championing free speech and putting a conservative claim on one of the university’s proudest liberal legacies. Last month, the group and another conservative student organization sued administrators for what they said was discrimination against conservative speakers. They have co-opted the language of the left, portraying themselves as fighting intolerance. Not all Berkeley Republicans agree with their tactics — some describe it as unnecessarily provocative.

"We are almost like an exhibit or zoo animals," said 20-year-old Naweed Tahmas, external vice president of the Berkeley College Republicans. "Whenever someone finds out I’m a Republican at Berkeley, they pick my brain. People are genuinely curious. Nonetheless, their image of a white, male Republican is shattered when they see me."

"As a Republican on campus I am targeted frequently," he continued. "I have been spit on on several occasions. I have had drinks thrown on me. I have been punched in the face... People assume we are racist, we are xenophobic. They attach labels to us that are not true."

Eighteen-year-old Anastasia Pyrinis, a political science and economics major, said, "I think when people find out that I’m conservative there’s an underlying tone or expression I get, like: 'How could you be? You’re supposed to be a Berkeley enlightened student. How could you dare be a conservative?' It’s definitely something that puts distance between me and my peers, and I really don’t think it should."

Economics and history major Patrick Boldea, 19, said, "You have a lot of professors who hold some very liberal views, and you can sometimes feel not necessarily marginalized, but like you’re being penalized when you express a more conservative view. Like in my sociology class, I wrote an essay on the good aspects of gentrification in San Francisco. I was very heavily criticized by my professor."

He went on to say that, as a conservative on campus, "you feel like your viewpoint is not as valued. You feel somewhat uncomfortable, but it’s not unbearable or unmanageable."

Maria Konakova, 20, linguistics and business: "I don’t agree with some of the things that Berkeley College Republicans do. Some of their moves, like having an animal-rights barbecue, where the main food that is sold is meat, that doesn’t seem to me like a rational thing to do. It seems like it was inflammatory." Konakova also does not that the majority of liberal Berkeley students "are aggressive and intolerant."

Jack Foley, 20, political science:

When I got to college, I found myself drifting more and more to the right. There is this overwhelming and prevailing orthodoxy on campus — people don’t want to expose themselves to other viewpoints.

I’ve become more vocal in what I believe in since the whole Milo Yiannopoulos event. I really felt more driven to get out of my shell. I really wanted to challenge this prevailing orthodoxy that if you are Republican, you are racist; if you are conservative, you are sexist; if you fall on the right, you are a homophobe.

There’s this idea that speech is violent, that simply by espousing a view that you don’t like I am attacking you, I am oppressing you, I am assaulting you. That view is fundamentally incompatible with a Western, liberal democratic society.

[...]

In my constitutional law class, my professor invited [the political scientist] Charles Murray to speak to the class. But the professor said: “Please don’t text your friends. I don’t want a protest around this.”

So much for the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.

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