Outnumbered and 'threatened,' some conservatives are leaving St. Olaf College

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St. Olaf College's conservatives say they've been targeted by insults and threats. Star Tribunre, Bruce Bisping

Located about 40 minutes south of Minneapolis-St. Paul, in Northfield (population 20,000), St. Olaf College (enrollment about 3,200) is the type of school that invites Angela Davis to speak.

And it's where, earlier this month, school administrators decided to rename an arts building due to sexual harassment allegations against professor Reidar Dittman, who died in 2010.

That kind of campus makes for a welcoming place for young folks interested in social justice or rising up against the guys running Washington. But if you like those guys running Washington? Or just don't hate them? It's getting awfully uncomfortable. 

According to a story in the Maintou Messenger, St. Olaf's campus newspaper, campus conservatives are outnumbered at least five-to-one, if not more: More than 80 percent of campus votes went to Hillary Clinton, with only 10 percent for Donald Trump. 

The lefty slant includes undergrads and professors alike: Student Lundstrom Warner complains of a teacher who treats the course like an episode of The Daily Show, "ridiculing Trump for about 20 minutes" at the start of class.

From their fellow students, campus conservatives report multiple incidents of insults and physical threats. Emily Schaller, a senior, and president of the St. Olaf College Republicans, says another student recognized her on Election Day and called her a "fucking moron"; this, though Schaller points out her campus group opted not to endorse Trump. 

Another conservative, Kathryn Hinderaker, says a couple days after the election she heard someone in a commons area yell that Trump voters on campus should be "fucking scared." 

Warner told the student paper she plans to transfer to the University of St. Thomas for fall semester. Katie Ivance already left, moving to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities after in-person and online harassment became overwhelming.

Adam Kaiser, a sophomore, says he realizes conservatives and libertarians are not an "oppressed minority group" on campus.

"That would not only be plain incorrect," Kaiser tells the Messenger, "but also it engages in the same identity politics that already make it so hard to have constructive conversations about challenging issues."


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