OPINION: My fellow students worked hard to cancel me. They emboldened me instead. Here’s my story.
Earlier this semester I launched an independent student newspaper at the College of William & Mary.
It was in direct response to students who disagreed with my conservative views and had tried to aggressively cancel me and my message. But their silencing and bullying attempts had the opposite effect. They emboldened me to speak up more.
My story begins last October, when my pro-life group Tribe for Life and I wrote messages of support for the unborn and struggling mothers on a chalkboard in the center of campus.
Our messages included phrases such as “NO vs. Wade,” “Destigmatize pregnancy! Give women resources instead,” “Not one or the other. Love them both!” and “Abortion hurts women…it leads to increased depression, miscarriage, suicide.”
As we wrote our messages, students walked by laughing and making gagging sounds. And sadly, the chalk didn’t stay up as long as an hour. Immediately after our group left, other students erased our work. In response, we posted on Instagram expressing our disappointment at the intolerance they’d shown.
After we posted, our social media accounts blew up. Hundreds of students poured into our comments, saying that our voices didn’t deserve to be heard and expressing hate toward members of our group.
“I don’t support or tolerate oppressive ideologies/government structures,” one commenter said. “I will attack and bully those who do and encourage others to do the same.”
Another wrote: “Y’all should stop trying to rationally debate pro lifers and just cyberbully/clown/push them out of existence. I hope that sounds as ‘intolerant’ as possible about pro life rhetoric, the discourse is f*cking over.”
“Stop arguing with them and just suppress the living sh*t out of them,” someone else responded. “You can’t rationally engage with people whose fundamental position is rooted in pseudoscience.”
As president of Tribe for Life, I was held accountable for the chalkboard messages, and for the way our club responded. Encouraged by other members of the club, I organized more chalking sessions for the rest of the week.
Early in the mornings, we went out and wrote new messages, insisting that our voices be heard.
Each day, only about one hour later, they were erased.
Finally, we spent a day sitting in front of our chalkboard messages, engaging in conversations with pro-choice students and protecting our comments from erasure. Hours passed until a particularly angry student splashed the board with water.
That week, William & Mary’s student body spoke loud and clear: it’s irrelevant that 50 percent of Americans are pro-life — our students believe opposing the destruction of children in the womb is an extreme view that must be silenced.
Unfortunately, as we are all aware, William & Mary is not isolated in the intolerance of its student body. Conservative and classical liberal students will not be given a platform at the modern university — unless we create it ourselves.
That’s what I learned from the chalkboard incident.
So, at the beginning of spring semester, I started a newspaper: the Christopher Wren Journal, where diversity of thought is welcome, where students can hear views that aren’t taught in the classroom, and where conservative students pressured to stay silent find that there are others speaking up.
In the past three months, our team has tackled difficult topics like abortion, free speech, Black Lives Matter, cancel culture, genocide, mental illness, slavery and the Founding Fathers, pornography, eating disorders and tone policing — and we are just getting started.
Starting the Wren Journal was far from easy. Immediately, a mob of leftist students attacked our paper on social media and in our website’s comments (go read the piece “Why the Wren Journal?” and you’ll see the aftermath).
They dug through the web archives of our staff and broadcast incriminating posts from middle school years. Against my will, I became a publicly controversial person on campus, vulnerable to a slew of online attacks. Rather than evaluating my ideas, people criticized my appearance and called me the “epitome of hurt, straight, evangelical and white.” Apparently that is the recipe of a person who advocates for free speech.
Big questions of morality and policy are important, and they should be discussed and debated.
College should be a place where students pursue the truth, where they are confronted with perspectives that are different, disagreeable and even uncomfortable. When that doesn’t happen on our campuses, we end up paying thousands of dollars to memorize textbooks or hear our professors’ personal opinions. Speaking out is intimidating, but if we care about the causes for which we advocate, those causes can drive us forward.
The pro-life cause is is what motivates me. Innocent lives are being lost and women are experiencing trauma because pro-abortion dogma pervades higher education. Many post-abortive women reveal that they didn’t know the facts before their abortion, and would have been horrified if they did.
I’m willing to be mocked and bullied if it saves one life or strengthens one mother to choose life. What is your cause? Be willing to stand up for it.
As conservatives, we need to speak out and we need to speak well. Progressives on campus may throw stones, but we should respond thoughtfully and rationally.
As people who truly believe that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, we should understand progressive arguments and respond compassionately using facts and reason.
Bullying and anger doesn’t have a place on the conservative side. Instead, to change minds and hearts, conservatives need to break into the educational echo chamber, and we need to do so with persuasive power and respect. We don’t have the luxury of institutional pre-made platforms for our beliefs. But we can make our own.