By Tommy Gagliano
On March 18, 2017, I announced what college I would be attending the following August on Instagram, stating “Officially going to Binghamton I guess. Meh.” I was obviously very enthusiastic and excited to be a Bearcat. Sarcasm aside, I wanted to go to the real BU—Boston University—and I felt that being relegated to Binghamton with a 1520 SAT score was insulting. As a straight white male, applicants that checked off one or more “diversity” boxes had the edge on me, and considering the middle class income of my parents, I was left with three options: go on the Boston College waitlist and potentially have the opportunity to pay $70,000 per year to go there, pay $60,000 per year to go to Northeastern University ($10,000 scholarship, wow, so helpful), or go to Binghamton and pay only for living expenses. I made the financially responsible decision, and quickly realized upon arriving here that many students were in the same boat as me.
My first order of business after getting settled in was to track down the Republican club. Politics had become a huge part of my life and my identity in high school. I frequently wore political attire and engaged in debates in classes and on social media, and felt confident doing so, as a resident of a significantly right-leaning town. I definitely made some enemies, and looking back I do regret how I went about certain things. That being said, I came into college with the same fire I had in high school, and at U Fest I sought out the College Republicans’ table and added my name and email address to their Listserv. Before I left, a student at the table semi-coherently mentioned something about a free speech ball that I should check out. I traveled in the direction he pointed and found a giant beach ball in the center of the walkway by the Admissions Center. Although I did not know his name at the time, Patrick McAuliffe was standing next to the ball with an Expo marker and a stack of Binghamton Review issues. I wasn’t particularly interested in the magazine, but after writing something about there only being two genders on the ball, I politely accepted a copy when Patrick offered it to me. I almost threw it out along with the other junk I had accumulated at U Fest, but I decided to hang on to it, and flipped through it later that day. I was an instant fan. The mix of college humor and unapologetic right-wing opinions was right up my alley, and suddenly I had a second general interest meeting to add to my schedule.
I bailed on College Republicans after a meeting or two, but stuck with the Review. Being the socially anxious person I am, I didn’t say much of anything at meetings my entire freshman year. Patrick once told me that he thought I was definitely not coming back after how silent and intimidated I was at the GIM, but I kept showing up. I became even more involved my sophomore year, as I took over as the Social Media Shitposter (yes, that was my official title) and began attending production nights. Binghamton Review was huge for me that year. It was by far the worst year of my college career. After being the odd man out in the housing situation with my suitemates from freshman year, who were my closest friends at Binghamton at the time, I spent a majority of the year feeling alone and unhappy. After finding out that I was getting screwed over with housing I actually considered transferring to Stony Brook and moving back home. I made a whole spreadsheet weighing the pros and cons, and ultimately, Binghamton Review was one of the biggest factors that kept me in Broome County. Along with Poker Club, which I had joined at the start of my sophomore year, Binghamton Review was one of the few places I felt like I had friends, and I felt like I belonged. Detractors have claimed that the Review makes students feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at Binghamton, but I’m a student too, and it did the exact opposite for me.
During my three and a half years here, a myriad of insults and accusations have been hurled at Binghamton Review and its staff from leftist students and organizations. The most common of these claim that the Review is either racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or some combination of the four. Ironically, the strongest proof against these claims (other than the actual content of the articles we publish, which do not fit the description of those terms in any way) is the actions those very same students and organizations have taken against us: throwing away or removing issues from our racks so students are unable to obtain a copy, vandalizing and destroying our bulletin boards, calling for us (and even creating petitions, in some cases) to have our SA charter stripped or be banned from campus, the list goes on. All of these actions have one thing in common: the end goal is to silence us. If we were truly racist, homophobic, or any of the other buzzwords leftist students claim we are, then why attempt to hide what we have to say? Why not let us expose ourselves, and ruin our own credibility, as well as the credibility of conservative college students in general? There is no reason to take down an enemy that will defeat themselves if left alone. Leftist students and organizations do not want to take us down because we’re bigots, they want to take us down because we disrupt their echochamber. As long as Binghamton Review exists there will be a place for conservative, libertarian, and other non-mainstream voices at Binghamton University, and that challenges the left-wing student body.
As I reflect on my college experience more generally, I can say that I am definitely a different person now than I was when I started three and a half years ago. I used to be arrogant and assumed that people that disagreed with me were dumb or misinformed, but now I can appreciate that people have different perspectives, mindsets, and priorities. Similarly, I used to attack people and look for a debate or argument among my peers wherever I could find one, but now I tend to avoid confrontation. I’m unsure if this is a positive or negative, as part of the reasoning for this is that conservative students at Binghamton University (and in colleges across the country) get verbally and sometimes physically attacked for daring to say something that goes against the status quo. Politically, I’ve shifted more towards the center, as I’ve changed my mind about drugs, the death penalty, the transgender bathroom debate, and a few other issues. I’m still shy and anxious about everything, but I do think my three and a half years here have helped with that a tiny bit. The question, of course, is how much of this transformation of my character can be attributed to my experience at Binghamton University and how much of it is simply due to increasing maturity as I get older, and to that I have no answer.
I still believe that college is a massive scam, and that it boils down to paying an absurd amount of money to waste four years of your life and then get a piece of paper that may or may not help you find a job, but I have learned a few things during my time here. Not from my classes, of course, that would be silly. Rather, I learned from other students that come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. For example, I learned pretty early my freshman year that many people from New York City have no idea what life is like outside of the city. I’ve met a number of students from the city that don’t understand why having a car is essentially a necessity, not a privilege. It’s mind blowing to them that, for the rest of the country, the closest grocery store is three miles away, and there is no bus or subway that will take you there. For them, being exposed to people from suburban and rural areas was probably even more enlightening. I also learned more about the understanding of race in black communities from one of my freshman year suitemates. At the beginning of the semester, while the other five of us (three white guys, one Asian guy, and a guy from India) would go places or do things together, he would spend most of his time with other people. He eventually started to spend more and more time with us as the year progressed, and when we asked him why he avoided us early on, he said something to the effect of “I just thought that since I’m black we wouldn’t really get along.” I’m unsure of his exact wording, but the implication was that he didn’t think a bunch of white guys would be interested in being friends with him, and that really had an impact on me. I never really considered that this attitude might exist in black communities, and I think we both learned from living with each other. While classes are pretty much useless (depending on major, I suppose), college is effective in promoting learning and growth outside of the classroom.
In a similar vein, I was also exposed to a lot of leftists students and instructors, which was quite a drastic difference from my high school. The claims that colleges are infested with people promoting “the liberal agenda” is absolutely true; however, the problem with extreme left-wing bias on college campuses is not that conservatives are exposed to left-wing ideas. A common narrative on the right is that colleges should be entirely neutral so that students aren’t “brainwashed” by left-wing institutions. This is stupid, and people that make this argument care more about winning elections than having an informed and open-minded populace. Being exposed to different perspectives and having to think about them on a deep level is a great thing; it gives students a fuller understanding of issues and better equips them to make informed decisions. The problem is that liberal students are not exposed to right-wing ideas. The consequence of this is that, while conservative students are forced to learn about and understand left-wing perspectives, liberal students never have to think about the reasoning behind right-wing opinions. Conservatives often leave college with a deeper understanding of the logic behind both sides of the political spectrum, and an increased level of respect for the people they called “libtards” in high school. On the other hand, liberals leave college having learned nothing about conservative ideology, and are just as willing to write off conservatives as being racist or bigoted as they were when they were fifteen.
I’m not going to offer any specific parting advice as I prepare to move on from this unremarkable university and the dreary city it is located in (or, more accurately, adjacent to). I’ve been inundated with people (professors, fellow students, people on social media) telling me what to think and do over the past three and a half years, and I’m not going to do the same to others. Instead, I’m going to declare my hopes for the future. I hope that all people, but especially college students and young people, learn to appreciate intellectual diversity, and seek to understand the reasoning behind different thoughts and opinions. I hope that people stop determining “good” and “bad” people based on which party or candidate they vote for. More generally, I hope that people stop assigning value to any type of identifier—whether it be political affiliation, race, gender, religion, or anything else—as if those characteristics have anything at all to do with a person’s merit or character. Finally, I hope that Binghamton Review continues to thrive and support underrepresented voices.
So, then, why is this article titled “Why Don’t All Lives Matter?” It isn’t. That’s an inside joke, designed for those that my final remarks are especially written for. To the Binghamton Review team, thank you, and good luck. For those on the outside, maybe you should consider joining the Review. It’s a good time.