Students report instances of political division on campus

Nick+Barnes-Batista%2C+a+student+in+support+of+the+Palestinian+cause%2C+engages+in+dialogue+with+a+fellow+student.+Barnes-Batista+is+a+proponent+of+discourse+and+diversity+of+ideas.
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Students report instances of political division on campus

Nick Barnes-Batista, a student in support of the Palestinian cause, engages in dialogue with a fellow student. Barnes-Batista is a proponent of discourse and diversity of ideas.

Nick Barnes-Batista, a student in support of the Palestinian cause, engages in dialogue with a fellow student. Barnes-Batista is a proponent of discourse and diversity of ideas.

Matt Saletta | Staff Photographer

Nick Barnes-Batista, a student in support of the Palestinian cause, engages in dialogue with a fellow student. Barnes-Batista is a proponent of discourse and diversity of ideas.

Matt Saletta | Staff Photographer

Matt Saletta | Staff Photographer

Nick Barnes-Batista, a student in support of the Palestinian cause, engages in dialogue with a fellow student. Barnes-Batista is a proponent of discourse and diversity of ideas.

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A wave of horror struck Lauren Bourgeois when she arrived at her dorm room. For the second time in a semester, people had covered her door with hate mail.

“I had my dorm room door plastered with essays about why I’m a terrible person, and I mean plastered – eight to ten essays,” Bourgeois said. “One said I don’t deserve to live. I felt terrified and didn’t come back to my dorm for weeks after because I was scared they might get physical.”

The authors of these essays wrote to Bourgeois, president of Tulane’s College Republicans, an organization which has been involved in controversy in the past, because of her conservative political views.

Harassment this severe is unusual at Tulane, but according to Julianna Pasquarello, a Democrat studying political science, students of all dissenting opinions are treated harshly here, including pro-Palestinians, fiscal or social conservatives and even political moderates.

“If someone has a dissenting opinion, students tend to demonize them. We label them as a bad person. We don’t see them as multidimensional,” Pasquarello said. “When I came to Tulane, I thought I was going to have really cool discussions with people who disagree with me, but instead I’ve found people just sort of yelling the same opinion back and forth.”

Institutions on campus like the Undergraduate Student Government have strived to support political diversity at Tulane. Tyler Margaretten, the Undergraduate Student Government vice president for finance, affirmed USG’s support of political discourse within the student body.

“While the USG is not a political body, in the sense that we don’t promote certain political beliefs over others, we support all of our students and all of our USG-recognized organizations, including our political organizations,” Margaretten said.

Margaretten added that the USG has supported Students for Life and Students United for Reproductive Justice and has historically provided funding to both the College Democrats and the College Republicans.

Nick Barnes-Batista, a political science student sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, said the political stigmatization persists due to a lack of diversity on campus.

“We don’t have enough diversity in the student body. Diversity isn’t just race, it’s also ideas,” said Barnes-Batista. “When you get enough people who share the same ideas, the minorities are going to have a very hard time voicing their opinions, especially during a time like now when political attitudes are so heated.”

Some students said they feel this environment has translated into a wide-ranging fear among those with dissenting voices. More than a dozen students contacted for this article declined requests for interviews. Each of them cited fear of being ostracized or judged as their primary reason for not voicing their beliefs publicly.

Students like Barnes-Batista and Pasquarello called for the promotion of respectful dialogue between opposing perspectives. Despite Tulane’s current political environment, these students believe the path forward is through communication. In the future, they said they hope to see discussions focus on empathizing with the other side, rather than resorting to personal insults.

“Name-calling shuts a conversation down right away,” Barnes-Batista said, in reference to the insults often thrown across the political aisle. “Right when that happens, both sides shut down.”

“You’re not going to learn anything if you can’t listen to other people,” Pasquarello said. “I’m sure any [political dissenter] on this campus would love to sit down and have coffee with you. If you give people of different opinions a moment of your time, they are going to have something really valuable to say. Maybe that will help with the discourse on campus.”

Carrigan English contributed to the reporting of this article.