As DePaul University senior Nicole Been walks around her college campus, she says, students she’s never met call her a racist and a bigot because she’s voting for Donald Trump.
“It’s scary feeling like I can’t walk around campus with a Trump shirt on, or a Trump hat, because I’m afraid of what people might do,” the 22-year-old chair of the college Republicans at DePaul in Chicago, Illinois said in an interview. “At this point, we’re the most hated group on campus.”
Students are fighting over the campaign on campuses across the country. College Republicans constructed an 8-foot tall “Great Trump Wall” at Washington State University in October, a demonstration that met with fierce protest. Emory University students complained in March that they felt unsafe after their classmates chalked messages in support of Trump on campus. The 2016 White House race has even pitted conservative students against one another, as some college Republicans have decided not to endorse their own party’s nominee.
It’s nothing new for Republican students to feel alienated on college campuses. Far more millennials identify as liberal than conservative, and the same is true of their professors. Add to that a wave of liberal activism pushing for trigger warnings and safe spaces at universities—demands that critics describe as coddling at best and threats to free speech at worst—and a presidential election filled with divisive insults, and it’s not hard to see how the divide between college Republicans who support Trump and the rest of the student body may have widened on college campuses across the country.