Welcome, Class of 2015! As a senior, I can assure you that your experience at Princeton will be filled with incredible, life-changing moments. The opportunities available to you truly are unlimited.
That’s not to say, of course, that your time here will be without challenges. Being away from the comforting familiarity of home can feel isolating, especially at the start of your freshman year. For center-right students on a predominately left-leaning campus, that isolation is compounded by a sense of political encirclement. Whether liberals are a foreign species to you, or (like me) you often found yourself the only conservative in the room back in high school, Princeton will present the most serious test of your political convictions you’ve ever had to face. Liberals at Princeton, unlike your typical MSNBC-fed left-wing sycophant, are really smart. They know all the best arguments for their positions– and, just as important, they know all the arguments for our side, along with the most effective rebuttals.
Confronted with this overwhelmingly hostile political climate, what’s a conservative at Princeton to do? You definitely don’t want to wall yourself off from anyone who disagrees with you– that would be defeating the entire purpose of your education. In fact, you should do the exact opposite. Engage your political adversaries in discussion as much as possible, and try to understand their point of view. Debate can be an effective format for reexamining and fortifying your own opinions.
At the same time, you don’t need to defend your views alone. Despite the University’s overall liberal orientation, Princeton boasts a wide array of groups that provide a forum for conservatives to enjoy the company of like-minded students, as profiled in David Byler’s article in this issue. I remember during my freshman year, as the campus was gripped with Obama fever and commentators predicted the death of American conservatism, the camaraderie of the Tory and the College Republicans gave me the confidence to hold fast to my beliefs. Although today the future of the conservative movement appears far brighter than it did in the aftermath of the 2008 election, such organizations still serve a vital role, offering students with center-right leanings a space to gather and express their political ideas without fear of ridicule or persecution.
The Tory, as Princeton’s only student publication devoted to moderate and conservative political thought, combines these twin goals of reinforcement and outreach. We are committed to covering stories of importance to Princeton students from a conservative vantage, but we also aim to foster dialogue with those who don’t share our outlook. For this reason, we frequently publish letters to the editor and guest columns, and feature competing perspectives in point-counterpoint pieces.
For a sample of what the Tory is all about, I encourage you to pursue this issue, which includes some of our best writing from the 2010-11 academic year. In these articles, you’ll find reports on the stories that have dominated campus headlines: gender neutral housing, the task force on women’s leadership, early admission, and more. What makes these articles valuable is that they don’t merely regurgitate the story as portrayed by the administration and the Daily Princetonian, but dig deeper to find hidden truths buried beneath the surface.
My advice to you, then, is threefold. First, never shy away from voicing your opinions, even when you know that you’re in the minority. Second, seek out fellow conservatives in order to refine your understanding of your views. Finally, my third suggestion, complementing the first and second, is to read the Tory. Doing so will prepare you for encounters with liberals while helping you to define your own political identity. Keep an eye out for our magazine– we deliver to every dorm on campus. And feel free to come to our meetings if you support the Tory’s mission and would like to get involved.
Sam Norton ’12