Should a student council candidate be canceled if she attends a conservative organization’s events? The editorial board of Georgetown University’s student newspaper thinks so.

Last week, the Hoya’s editorial board endorsed Camber Vincent (class of 2024) and Alyssa Hirai (class of 2024) for Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) president and vice president. They offered the rationale that the candidates’ “platform could most effectively create a safer, more equitable, and more supportive community.”

A more supportive community.

One day later, the Hoya rescinded its endorsement. It did so after being informed that Hirai attended two social events hosted by Georgetown University’s chapter of the Network of enlightened Women, an organization I run. We seek to educate, equip, and empower women to be principled leaders for a free society. In November, Georgetown’s NeW chapter hosted NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines to discuss her experience as a college athlete. The chapter had promoted the event before the Hoya’s original endorsement. Put simply,the Hoya tried to cancel Hirai’s aspiration to serve on the campus student government because of her association with an organization for conservative women. It’s that simple.

But while a student council race at an elite university isn’t of national concern, this incident highlights the challenges that conservative students often face. The Hoya’s action sends the message that students will be penalized for associating with a conservative group on campus. We’ve all seen the surveys showing the disproportionate number of liberal faculty and administrators on campus. But what I often hear about from students is the social pressure they feel to hide their views. Students face pressure from sororities, student government, and other student groups. Sometimes the impact and directness of the pressure and consequences are hard to measure or connect. This particular example doesn’t fall into that category. Georgetown University shows students using their power to pressure another student into disaffiliation with a club because it promotes conservative ideas.

The consequences?

Pressuring conservatives not to associate with conservative groups will likely chill some conservative activities on campus. This effort hurts conservatives as these same groups provide meaningful programming and connect students with internships and jobs, among other benefits. But liberal students also suffer from a lack of intellectual diversity on campus. Many students, myself included, benefit from hearing speakers with a wide range of views. Going to a social event to make new friends or learn about different ideas now has an added potential cost at Georgetown. After all, the Hoya might try to cancel a student later. Students themselves are disincentivizing intellectual curiosity and robust debate.

There is cause for hope, however.

In the comments of the Hoya article rescinding its endorsement, a student identified as a “concerned liberal student” wrote , “this is embarrassing for the Hoya. Disappointed in the editorial team for applying minutia and hearsay to what should be a race for effective leadership.” Another student said, “Sad that the Hoya is ending its endorsement solely because a candidate may be conservative.” A third wrote, “By rescinding the Hoya’s endorsement of Vincent-Hirai for GUSA Executive, the Hoya demonstrates a clear lack of tolerance for diversity of thought and respect for varying political opinions.”

When asked for comment, Hirai did disassociate herself from the organization. The pressure was successful. And her effort to disassociate herself worked. Vincent and Hirai won their election contest. In this new role, let’s hope these students prioritize creating an environment that fosters the free exchange of ideas and a truly supportive community.