College choices for conservative Christian son

My S has narrowed his college acceptances to these 3:
University of Richmond
Davidson College
Furman University

He’s looking for a campus where the student body is not super politically minded, where conservative/Christian viewpoints are tolerated, and profs and curriculum are more conservative than liberal.

Looking for a friendly, open social atmosphere that is not completely dependent on Greek life.

Of these three choices, which would you recommend given these criteria and why?

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Sounds like you want your son to live in a bubble.

Furman should be his top choice. Then Richmond. Then Davidson - which is very liberal.

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I second that ranking but in my view Richmond and Furman are almost equivalent. However, their culture and “vibe” while similar are not identical and it’s worth a visit to see if one resonates more with your son. I know kids who attend both and are enjoying their experiences.

Furman and Richmond are not necessarily “conservative” but they definitely are more apolitical and that’s about as much as you can hope for these days. Davidson is by far the most liberal.

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Davidson is the best academically but also is the most liberal. Furman is probably the most tolerant of conservative viewpoints but isn’t as good academically. I would go with Richmond since its in the middle of the both scales.

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When I read words like ‘woke’ and I’m a republican - but enough if enough.

People can choose where to go to school - whether Hillsdale, Liberty, etc. and get a great education - but that word bothers me - because in the real world, you deal with others/many.

So it’s not the same as an all - female school or HBCU - in my opinion but there could be similar factors there as well.

I was making an observation - as did you. I would choose the “right” school - not the school that mutes free speech or where kids are intolerant of one mindset.

No snark - just an opinion.

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I don’t see the word “Republican” in the post. You’re making assumptions.

I would also love to understand your logic how an all-female school or HBCU’s aren’t a bubble. You’re excluding half the population or more. How is that “real world where you deal with others/many”?

OP…good luck. You have some good options.

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Richmond has excellent placement in jobs in the NE and mid Atlantic regions; Furman more SE oriented. Both good options.

Thanks everyone! Please keep the input coming.

I would probably say Richmond…what does he want to major in? They have a nice business program.

One thing I examined with my college list (as a minor consideration, although this varies person to person) is if the college has adopted the Chicago Principles for Free Speech and Expression. FIRE is the “Foundation for Individual Rights in Eduction,” and they list on their website which schools have pledged to adopt the Chicago Principles (started by the University of Chicago), and then they also rate schools based on their policies. This is truly a two way street and I have found them to be very impartial––I remember looking and Hillsdale College had a warning (they’re a very conservative college), and colleges that are known to be super liberal have had warnings listed by them on the site…it’s not like a university with one ideology tends to be under scrutiny with their assessments, seems fair.

More about the Chicago Principles/a brief excerpt:

“Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn . . . . [I]t is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

Richmond is the only university of those 3 that has adopted it. You can check out the full list here: Chicago Statement: University and Faculty Body Support - FIRE

Additionally, concerning the speech code ratings, Furman is red light, and Richmond along with Davidson are yellow light. You can look at each individual school and their infractions (some of them might not even be a concern to you), here:

Furman: Furman University - FIRE
Davidson: Davidson College - FIRE
Richmond: University of Richmond - FIRE

Almost every single university is going to be majority liberal, but I do think a university endorsing free speech means the educational experience is a bit kinder to differing viewpoints…just food for thought!

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It’s sad - because if your son is seeking small, Davidson is as good as school as any in the country; reputationally far beyond the other two.

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What a well thought out post.

@Nattyloo32
Based on the limited information, my initial reaction was 1) Furman, 2) Richmond, 3) Davidson. Simply based on anecdotal information from friends, I don’t see any of the schools actively suppressing a student’s voice. It just may be easier to find your people at Furman than Davidson.

I also agree that your son’s career plans should be a consideration.

Congratulations to your son on three great acceptances!

ETA addressing of OP

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I am an alumna of Furman University and the mom of a prospective incoming Furman freshman. In my experience of Furman in the early 90s, your son would certainly have felt extremely comfortable as a conservative Christian and he would’ve been in the majority. My impression of Furman now is that a conservative Christian would still feel comfortable but would maybe not enjoy the majority status that conservative students enjoyed when I was there. There are fewer conservative Christian groups than there were when I was a student, and, from what I can tell, the ultra-conservative Christian groups that were there when I was a student no longer exist. I’m certain there are still some ultra-conservative churches in the Greenville area.

Personally, I take issue with the word “woke,” as it’s now used almost exclusively in a pejorative way, which also seems to be the way you’re using it. I would say that what the profs and curriculum at Furman are like will depend on what your son majors in. When I was there, the professors in the Religion, Philosophy, and Sociology departments were considered to be to the left or far left (conservative Christians at the time would warn against majoring in any of these areas because of the “secular” professors). Many other departments had a more neutral feel to them (especially the sciences, the business department, and the music department). At least one professor in the Poli Sci department who is actually still on faculty there was known to be far right and was vocally a conservative Christian. I don’t know as much about current professors/departments except to say the Religion department has continued on a more progressive path and now focuses broadly on world religions and comparative religion.

Furman was and is a very friendly, open social atmosphere. I would not say it is an apolitical student body, but it definitely doesn’t have the super-political feel, with lots of protests and demonstrations, that you would find at a place like University of Michigan or similar schools. It has an unusually strong Greek presence for a school its size (more so for sororities than for fraternities), but having an active, fulfilling social life does not depend on Greek involvement.

I know as an alumna I will sound biased, but I disagree with one of the statements above that Furman is not as good academically as Davidson or Richmond. Davidson is more widely known and has a strong and well-deserved reputation, but Furman is absolutely academically rigorous and prepares its students for grad school/med school/law school as well as any school I know (I say this as someone who has worked with college students, primarily University of Michigan undergraduate and graduate students, for more than 20 years). Many, many incoming Furman students graduated from high school with (unweighted) 4.0s, but only a handful of students - I’m talking 3 or 4 students most years - graduate from Furman with a 4.0. I earned my masters and my doctorate alongside graduates of Richmond and Davidson and I felt as prepared as, if not more prepared than, any of them for graduate level work.

One last thing regarding selecting a college as a conservative Christian. I was a conservative Christian when I started at Furman, and I started there when Furman was still considered a Southern Baptist school (those ties were officially severed during my junior year there). My first semester at Furman, I became involved in conservative Christian groups, made many conservative Christian friends, and visited several conservative churches. Even so, by the time I graduated from Furman, I was no longer a conservative Christian; I was still a Christian, but I had a radically different belief system than I’d started with and I was involved in causes, protests, and advocacy work that you would probably label as “woke.” All of this is to say - the college experience is an odyssey that changes a person, or should. If a student fully engages the experience of college academically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, with an open mind and heart - they really shouldn’t emerge as the same person they were when they graduated high school. Your son can do his best to find a school that feels safe and comfortable for conservative Christians, but he still may find himself questioning some of his core beliefs. There’s no reason to be afraid of that - his beliefs should be able to withstand the challenge of critical reflection.

My apologies for such a lengthy reply - I clearly have a lot to share about Furman on this topic!

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FWIW, Furman received a red light for the “infraction” of having a sexual misconduct policy that includes addressing offensive or unwanted sexual behavior that doesn’t rise to the level of constituting Title IX Sexual Misconduct.

They address this kind of unwanted sexual behavior “through respectful confrontation, remedial actions, requiring the completion of educational programs (including but not limited to sexual misconduct prevention programs), and/or conflict resolution efforts.”

I really don’t see how this is a violation of free speech.

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Wow…what a wonderful and thought-provoking post!

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Thank you! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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I assumed they got the red light because the definition of actionable conduct included “lewd comments” and “innuendos” — permitting disciplinary action for boorish speech alone. :woman_shrugging:t2:

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Hmm, still feels like a stretch to me, given that the boorish speech would have to be both severe, persistent, or pervasive and would have to create an intimidating environment that unreasonably limits or interferes with the individual’s ability to participate in their education, on-campus living, or other school activities.

Given how the behavior would have to infringe on the rights of another student, I don’t see how the policy infringes on protected speech. But I’m not a lawyer. Maybe schools aren’t supposed to have policies that allow them to address conduct that doesn’t rise to the level of Title IX Sexual Misconduct? Or maybe this policy would be considered okay if it didn’t include a list of examples?

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I hear you. I hadn’t heard of this FIRE ranking until today and it isn’t entirely clear to me what threshold has to be crossed to merit a yellow versus a red light, etc., but the flagged policies all seem to highlight policies where someone can be disciplined for speech alone.

But the law provides that not ALL speech is protected, so I don’t think there can be a bright line here. Which makes the rankings hard to evaluate for me.

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It is also why many say they are in favor of free speech (or other freedoms) until they actually experience it. What many actually want is freedom of their speech.

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