It's silly, but would anyone be truly flattered by either statement? Both suggest that the subject is an exception to a rule defined by partisan cliches. I doubt any Wellesley student would argue that she shares identical beliefs and values with her peers or strictly adheres to a particular ideological rule.
I didn't identify myself as a conservative when I arrived at Wellesley, but I proudly graduated as one in May. Instead of growing more liberal in my four years at Wellesley, I grew more conservative.
This wasn't really for lack of trying -- as a political science and American studies double major, my courses generally leaned to the left of the political spectrum. The funny thing is, while these courses challenged my own beliefs, they served to reinforce and clarify my convictions.
As a political science major, I was offered seminars such as "Marxism, Anarchism and Fundamentalism," "Feminist Political Theory" and "Race and Political Theory," but an equivalent course on conservative theorists such as Edmund Burke or Michael Oakeshott was nonexistent.
The only course directly relating to conservatism at Wellesley is found in the sociology department. "Sociology of Conservatism" was created by and is taught by the only self-admitted registered Republican professor, Jonathan Imber. The purpose of the course is shockingly not to indoctrinate students, but rather to offer an opportunity to examine and question personal convictions.
I'm sure that the faculty of the political science department would argue that a course on Marxism or feminist theory is valuable because it is historically relevant to today's theorists. Why is conservatism not afforded the same treatment, especially as it continues to evolve?
The canon of conservative thought is rich and complex and cannot be diluted into a single ideology. Libertarianism, moral conservatism, paleo-conservatism, and neo-conservatism all fall under the wider umbrella of "conservatism," but have very different ideas about economic, social and political issues.
I was consistently amazed by my fellow students' inability to distinguish mainstream partisanship from political theory. I took a course titled "Politics of the Left, Right and Center" where students used "conservative" and "Republican" interchangeably throughout the entire semester. So much for grasping the differences between left, right and center.
Despite this insular partisanship, I never experienced a hostile classroom environment as a conservative at Wellesley. Aside from requisite Paul Krugman readings in economics and political science classes, my professors were fair.
Largely as a result of off-campus experiences and internships, I grew the confidence to speak up in class and voice my disagreement with assigned readings or with my peers. Professors welcomed this debate because class discussion is far more interesting when everyone is not in agreement.
It is also enlightening for students to acknowledge that identifying as a Republican or a conservative does not include warmongering, racism, sexism and homophobia as prerequisites.
I am a conservative because I value the traditions of hard work, individual freedom and limited government upon which the United States was founded. I believe that the very values that propelled our country to greatness are necessary to its future.
My disposition cannot be attributed to one defining moment, but rather to a culmination of academic and practical learning experiences. Whether it's a major accomplishment or a just a shock, the truth is that my liberal arts education turned me conservative.
Alexandra E. Cahill survived four years of liberal indoctrination at Wellesley College.