Going to college is often a transformative experience for students as they’re exposed to many people from different religions, cultures, and people who have new ideas.
This can also be said about political leanings, as before college students may have avoided the topic altogether. Politics can be touchy and uncomfortable, after all.
Pacific University is home to students and faculty alike who seem to mostly be liberal. Creative Writing Professor Kathlene Postma commented on when she was a teen: “I grew up in rural America in the 1970’s and 80’s. Most of the conversations I had about politics were with my parents, who were conservative.”
She talked about how political offices were filled with white men. “It didn’t occur to me then to question that, although later I certainly did.”
What made Postma shift politically was going to college and moving to a city. “I started to experience first-hand a broader sense of America,” Postma said. “The perspectives of people with backgrounds different from my own began to factor into how I think and vote.”
Postma observed her parents did have more trust in the national American political system during that earlier time than she does today. “That’s not to say government was all that much more reliable or safe for everyone, but there seemed more of an assumption elected representatives knew they had a responsibility to work with each other to solve problems for the country as a whole.” She doesn’t feel confident that’s happening in America now.
Freshman Amelia Haindl expressed similar concern with the current political system, “I met a Trump supporter that said ‘Donald Trump is the only hope we have of making America great again.’”
Haindl felt very uncomfortable at those words, as many other Americans have. “He’s promised so many things that he can’t follow through with,” Haindl commented. Her political views haven’t changed since entering college, as she comes from a more liberal household and one of mostly immigrants.
Haindl and her family don’t talk about politics much outside of their immediate family, considering her grandparents are Republican and it can cause unwanted arguments.
Senior Jakob Gillingham shares similar beliefs, “When I first arrived at Pacific, I was already on the far left and as a senior, I’ve gone even further.” Gillingham came from a family settled in the center of the political spectrum, but since he’s gone off to college, his parents have also shifted more to the left. Gillingham shares the same sentiment as Haindl as his extended family consists of primarily conservative Republicans.
“My dad does nothing but talk about politics,” Junior Savannah Olson shared, “and he’s a huge conservative, though he does differ from stereotypical conservatism in significant ways.” Since entering college, Olson has noticed a shift towards more liberal views, although she would still consider herself more of an independent.
“I grew up in Iowa, in a family environment where I was encouraged to question and think for myself,” Physics Professor Todd Duncan recalled, “It was also very Republican.” Duncan originally voted Republican, as he grew up in a very rural, Republican setting.
“It’s been a very gradual change,” he stated, “now I almost always vote for Democratic candidates.” Duncan mentioned that having multiple perspectives and coming from a Republican family is very valuable to, “get beyond labels,” and “finding what we agree on” to solve a common problem. “It’s valuable to go to college as it exposes you to people with a wider range of experiences.”
Though students may differ on political opinions, it’s good to note that that isn’t a bad thing. Having different perspectives is often useful to solving problems or deepening the understanding you have on certain topics. College is certainly the place where a lot of people have altered their beliefs and learned more about what’s really going on behind the political system.