Thoughts of a Conservative Senior and Liberal Freshman
By Summer Boulais
Trevor Natiuk, senior computer science and music major, discussed his experience at WWU as a conservative student. He feels most curriculums, programs, and events are left-leaning, which can make it hard to share his opinions. However, he has met many professors and students that have a respectful understanding of conservative students.
What it means to be conservative is described by Natiuk as two things, “One is conserving the tradition of values in our society that have made us great—family, religion, free speech, diversity of thought, and symbols of America such as the flag. The second is making sure the things that make us great stay for the next generation.”  While Natiuk is open to change, he finds it crucial to keep these values and limit government control over our lives.
Although Natiuk feels comfortable having controversial conversations with friends, this is not always the case in the classroom setting. “Professors occasionally ask a question in class I want to answer but feel I cannot state my opinion without being judged,” Natiuk said.  Not only do students make him feel this way, but some professors do as well in the sense that they may find his response inappropriate.
The first step for people feeling underrepresented is having the opportunity to communicate their feelings. Natiuk emphasized this by suggesting events where students get to speak with active engagement leading political discussions.  Another step towards allowing students to have a safe space to be heard is to provide more small groups for these kinds of discussions.
One change Natiuk noticed this year is Albert Handal, lead chaplain, reaching out to students more after CommUnity. Natiuk took up his offer and had a one-on-one conversation with Handal that helped him evaluate his position on certain topics and understand arguments from someone else’s point of view. This helped Natiuk think of the idea of “CommUnity continued” which invites students to stay in the church and further discuss the topic that week with other students or faculty. 
Conservative students like Natiuk may feel better represented if WWU made more effort to honor patriotic holidays like Veterans Day. He said another way to help students have a voice would be to elect a student leader with a conservative point of view into the senate or some other position of influence. 
“When you break down people’s views into fundamentals, they want the world to be a better place as their life progresses. It is all about figuring out where you agree and what you can do to build off that agreement in a way that works for both sides,” Natiuk explained.  Encouraging events to be demographically diverse viewpoint-wise is a great step towards better representation for both sides.
Danyah Morales is a freshman exercise science major who feels there could be more liberal representation on campus. Morales has found several students with left-leaning viewpoints like herself, but not as many faculty.  However, she appreciates that professors have been respectful to all students by using their preferred names.
“Having a liberal point of view means being open-minded and accepting of people. There is no judgment while being willing to change beliefs and habits to make everyone feel welcome and safe and to just be themselves,” Morales said.  She has found that she is comfortable expressing her opinions in the classroom setting, but others she knows feel the need to keep their opinions and identities a secret in fear of discrimination.
A lot of representation of different groups is found in the various clubs WWU offers. Many student clubs are centered around certain activities or cultural groups to make students feel included. Nonofficial groups that want to be associated with the school are the ones that run into the most problems. One issue Morales pointed out is WWU asking not to be associated with certain clubs or related alumni groups.  For example, the school requested the WWU pride Instagram to change its username to something not linked to the school.
An improvement for clubs to help liberal students feel more represented is electing club sponsors. Creating an opportunity for this sponsor to speak to the board about issues students are having could help administration understand what the students need. Morales feels that if this meeting took place, we could take steps towards WWU having its name associated with clubs of all nature. 
Another suggestion by Morales is to have more opportunities for liberals and conservatives to share ideas in CommUnity by asking for questions ahead of time.  This will allow the speaker to revise them and respond thoughtfully rather than on the spot. Controversial topics need to have a bridge between the two sides provided through discussion.
“Both sides want what is best for the school and have a good experience coming here. Neither side wants to be demonized or dehumanized, but sometimes both sides can be ignorant,” Morales said.  Students with all sorts of mindsets attend WWU, and the University needs to encourage thoughts from everyone.
Both Natiuk and Morales brought up solid points about how there is some representation of conservative and liberal students, but there is certainly room for improvement. The first step towards achieving this is through listening and creating opportunities for open and safe communication.
- Interview with Trevor Natiuk, 11/2/21.
7. Interview with Danyah Morales, 11/3/21.