The Lady Doth Protest Too Little

April 23, 2016
Quinn Shepherd

If anything were to define this year at Yale, it would be protest culture. Students have been shouting, stomping, obstructing, and signing for many reasons this semester, beginning with the infamous Christakis email. The path in front of Sterling Memorial Library has been converted into an art gallery and Peter Salovey was roused from his restful sleep to receive a list of demands from students who could simply not wait until morning. The common denominators of these protest seem to be the same: they are organized by the campus left, demand nebulous change to the “racial climate” and “sexual culture” of Yale’s campus, and fade out almost as quickly as they begin.

A distinct absence is found when considering these features of 2015-2016’s protests: that of conservative voices. This is not to say that the presence of conservatives was altogether unfelt. After all, protesters targeted the Buckley Program, Yale’s organization targeted at intellectual diversity and free speech, when rumors of a politically incorrect quip by a guest swept across campus social media sites. But while students marched to chez Salovey, no action was taken by Next Yale’s adversaries. As students protested wage gap, lovers of the free market did not set up shop outside of the accused businesses. No group a-la “Marginalized Safe Spaces at Yale” exists for those who stand against safe space culture, except for the short-lived and doomed from the start Free Speech Forum. Conservatives at Yale are in a state of inaction as their liberal comrades begin the revolution.

This absence of counter-protest is concerning only when viewed from a leftist perspective. For leftists, the idea that a political ideology could exist coherently without a necessary factor of action is absurd, because leftism and progressivism are fundamentally about rapid action taken “towards” a certain point. When concerning the state of society, leftists desire to reconstruct in whatever means are possible, even if these means involve deconstruction. They must also be done quickly, because the primary concern is found not in the long-term consequences of a change but in the necessity of said change at all.

Conservatism is a fundamentally different beast. Instead of demanding action now and as quickly as possible, conservatism attempts to engage with not only what changes must be made but how quickly they must be performed. Burke, often seen as the father of modern conservatism, illustrates this in his notion of gradual change; gay conservatives illustrate this in their preference for laws made about the legality of gay marriage to be done because of the norms of a culture and not because of an activist court. Conservatism breeds a type of patience and farsightedness, because a decision made in a conservative framework is never made without affecting future options and choices.

From thence the campus right proceeds. While issues about free speech and microaggressions dominate the campus intensely for short bursts of time, campus conservatives must also contend with the fact that many of these movements last only long enough to have their battlecries screamed before disappearing in influence or relevance. The choices, then, that those on the right make are targeted at those more insidious culture aspects that dominate Yale over longer periods of time or seek to do more damage. Though the presence of leftist protests often skew the image of Yale’s campus to seem like a bunch of spoiled, whiny college students, the quiet resilience of Yale’s right assures that when action is finally needed, those to fight for conservatism will be ready to pick up the sword or the pen. 

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