I am an adopted, disabled young woman, and I’m a proud conservative

Sasha Carpenter shares her thoughts on the political climate at Bucknell

I am a woman of Chuvash-Tatar (Mongolian) descent, adopted from Russia, with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, that affects my walking. I have six adopted, special-needs sisters, some of color, with ethnic backgrounds including: Hispanic, Russian-Ukrainian, Asian and Roma Bulgarian. I am also an Evangelical Christian and Conservative Republican who voted for President Trump.

Me with my sisters

In light of the election and recent events across college campuses, such as UC Berkeley and NYU, I have been surprised at the reaction within the Bucknell community. Perhaps most surprising is the assumptions my peers and professors have made about me and my views. From before the election, to the days following it, I decided to not share my political views with others unless specifically asked. I sat silently, while most friends, professors and peers rarely stopped to ask my opinion.

One day after the election, while working on a project, a group of faculty discussed the results right behind me. One member said:  “The racists came out to vote last night in Ameri-KKK-a.” Another said: “I have not felt this bad since 9/11.” As someone who is a Russian minority, with sisters from other countries, I politely shake my head in disagreement with those who might call me a racist. In regard to the latter comment, I felt it very disrespectful to those affected by 9/11, particularly considering it was Veteran’s Day.

That being said, I understand if these are your thoughts and you have a right to express them. However, that means equal coverage should be given to conservative/libertarian viewpoints. A recent article was published on HerCampus about students who participated in the Women’s March, and that’s great. But where is the article about the March for Life, or about women, like myself, who voted for President Trump on November 8th? Becoming more aware of unbalanced reporting combined with a lack of conservative/libertarian views presented on campus has made me question in new ways where my voice fits into the Bucknell community.

What if people knew my opinion? If this is what they are saying in front of me now, what would they do if they knew where I really stood? I don’t think it occurs to people that I would be anything but a progressive. After all, I am a minority, an immigrant, a female and I have a disability. According to my “identities,” I should be a progressive, but I’m not.

My parents, Brian and Stephanie Carpenter (Bucknell, ’87) with my sisters Lina, Annie, and Ellianna

Sitting in the audience when Christina Hoff Sommers came to speak at Bucknell, I agreed with much of what she said, particularly about oppression. According to the progressive viewpoint, I have plenty of reasons to consider myself oppressed. Yet, as a college-educated American woman, I have no right to complain of oppression. Rather, my oppression would have been the lack of opportunities given to me as a disabled orphan in a Russian mental institution.

There has been a lot of conversation since Sommers came to Bucknell. I was proud to see the fellow Bucknellians who gathered that night listen as she spoke. I’d hoped that this waproof that students can respect differences and learn from others, even if some disagree.

Unfortunately, when the open Q&A session began, the rude behavior of the audience prompted Tom Ciccotta, organizer of the event, to say this. People were yelling and interrupting, making it appear as though their true interests lay in proving Sommers wrong, not engaging in a peaceful exchange of different opinions. The behavior exhibited by some of the audience showed me that perhaps Bucknell is not as welcoming towards different opinions as I thought, and this saddens me.

Me with my sister Avi from the Philippines

Bucknell has a focus on promoting campus diversity, which is a good thing. The campus Diversity Statement says: “An essential component of Bucknell’s commitment to academic excellence is our commitment to fostering an inclusive, diverse campus community.”

However, I suggest Bucknell needs to consider whether their treatment of conservative/libertarian viewpoints is truly inclusive. The assumption that I, because of my background and “identities,” should be progressive is concerning because it is the opposite of being open-minded and inclusive.

My recent experiences have shown me that many students and faculty on campus consider my viewpoints worthy of intense criticism, far from the diversity and tolerance I am assured of as a student. I simply want the equal opportunity to express my opinions and be heard with respect, without fear of ostracization from the university.

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