A liberal students take in a conservative arena

Matthew Broussard, Contributing Writer

Last week the Young Adults for Liberty advertised that they would be hosting a diversity discussion. I had previously heard of this group, but only knew a little bit about them. Their website stated that they are a libertarian youth organization, which really piqued my interest. I had always seen libertarians as staunchly conservative, and the last to champion any sort of progressive social projects. I wanted to attend their meeting to see how they eir approach to diversity.


The presentation had a small showing, and most of the attendees were members of the club. Members were discussing their opinions of The Workers Voice, a newspaper distributed by the New Orleans Workers Group. The newspaper promotes politically left ideas, and they took issue with some of the topics it addressed. This should have foreshadowed the coming experience as, and the presentation began. I realized that the approach to diversity was not the traditional.  approach. The presentation was focused on political and intellectual diversity on college campuses. 


To start the presentation, two types of diversity were differentiated. Superficial diversity was defined as relating to gender, sex, age, ability, race, etc. Ideological diversity was defined as relating to political persuasion and life experience. The rest of the presentation expanded upon issues of ideological diversity, specifically on college campuses. I thought this was  funny, because of my previous views about libertarians being the last to champion any sort of progressive movement. I thought they might discuss issues about gender, race, or the LGBTQ community, but instead they talked about how conservatives feel unsafe on college campuses. 


The event left me with the same impression of what I expected Young Americans for Liberty to be: college conservatives talking about how hard it is to be open about their political views while giving a public presentation and hanging out with other conservatives. Thinking that I had a narrow impression of the group, I decided to speak with their campus president to learn a little more about them.


Travis Kieff told me he identifies as a Libertarian, and that he is a registered Rrepublican. He defined being a Llibertarian as promoting reduced government influence in life. We discussed how the local chapter got started, and he told me it began in March 2019. A Young Americans for Liberty chapter from Lafayette visited the University of New Orleans’ campus, and he and a few other students coordinated with them to start a chapter here. I asked Kieff what drove him to host a diversity talk. He told me that he was influenced by a thought experiment he saw in a TED talk that was in his presentation. In this experiment, two groups are presented. One group has people of different races, LGBTQ representation, and gender diversity. The other group has all white men. Both groups are considered diverse in the example because the first group has the same political views, while the latter has a variety of political views. After seeing this, Kieff wanted to introduce this concept to others on campus. He told me that there are campuses where he feels he would not be able to discuss his conservative views, but the University of New Orleans’ campus is not one of those. He thinks it is accepting of his views, but he really wants to build a space where conservatives can come together and flourish. 


Before finishing our interview, I asked Kieff about some controversies on and off campus. Earlier in the year, the UNO social app was plagued with derogatory language, and many students were disappointed with the school’s response. Kieff told me that he does not agree with the language that was used, but sees a difference between legally and socially acceptable behavior. He feels that the school has taken steps since those events to correct the problem. I asked him about the Young American’s for Libety’s free speech ball next. I was curious how the club moderates the language used on the ball. He told me that the line is drawn at calls to violence, but he tries to rotate the ball to put the writing out of view when mean spirited things are written. Last, I asked him about his opinions of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Virginia. Considering the previous discussion of how open conservatives feel they can be on college campuses, I wanted to know how he felt about possibly the most infamous conservative rally of our generation. Kieff didn’t feel a strong enough distinction was made between the pro-monument protesters and the white supremacists and neo nazis that attended. He felt that the two were unfairly lumped together, especially after remarks made by president Trump that there were very fine people on both sides. I asked Kieff how he would feel about marching side by side with Nneo Nnazis and white supremacists if he had attended the rally. He told me he could distance himself enough from their view to work with them for a united cause. 


The follow up interview certainly gave me another gave me an expanded view of the Young Americans for Liberty and its members. I was surprised by their diversity presentation, but only because it managed to skirt any meaningful discussion of diversity. My impression of what a libertarian is remains the same as stated before: staunchly conservative, and the last to champion any sort of progressive social projects.