Connecticut got into the political battle this past Tuesday with a close Governor’s race and a handful of local races, but the Wesleyan campus has been just as connected as ever. In some ways, students have been even more involved recently—after years of inactivity, the Wesleyan Republican Committee was resurrected this September and now boasts a membership of over 60 students.
Their brand new website, along with new social media pages, sets forward a mission to “support the Republican agenda on Wesleyan campus and spread the Republican message throughout our school, our state and our nation. Our goals include helping elect Republican candidates on a local and national level as well as more actively involving college youth in the Republican Party. We strive to give Wesleyan Republican Committee members and non-members a better understanding of Republican views in all fields; and lastly, we aspire to fully prepare the future leaders of our party and of our country.”
Just before the midterm election, I decided to sit down with chairman Emma Sveen ’17 and vice-chairman Emma Bentley ’17 and talk to them about what exactly the WesRepublicans look to bring to campus.
When was this group started?
EB: About three weeks ago
Was there a Republicans club at Wes before?
EB: There was about three years ago but when the seniors of the group graduated it kind of just fell apart, so we figured we’d start one up again this year.
What were your main goals and purposes in starting WesRepublicans?
EB: I’d say that our main goal was to just have another political party group on campus so that people with more Republican ideals or even moderate ideals could have their voice heard in a more established setting. Also just to have civil debates with the WesDems and foster a larger political diversity on campus.
Did you worry at all about starting WesRepubs on what can definitely be called a primarily liberal campus?
EB: Yeah we knew that we’d get some people, like we did on Facebook, that wouldn’t really agree with it, but we also knew a bunch of people that do associate with the Republican agenda that could help us start it up. We weren’t really too worried, we just thought it would be a great diversity option for Wesleyan.
Could you talk a little more about your thoughts on the backlash you received on Facebook?
EB: It was actually really great because we met with the president of WesDems and he is one of out biggest supporters on campus and it was great to know that the other established political party on campus had nothing to do with the backlash on Facebook. Some people were offering valid points and were coming at it from a point of view that was very outsider and didn’t have a political affiliation and were just saying that it’s good to have something like this on campus. We figured that it [the backlash] would happen eventually but it has faded into the background so we’re not too worried about it anymore.
How many members are there currently?
Are there any events you are currently working on?
ES: We’re actually holding two campaigning phone banks this [past] weekend on both Saturday and Sunday; different groups of students are going down to Southington to do phone banks for Thomas Foley and Heather Somers: the Republicans candidates for governor and deputy governor. We also had a charity barbecue last weekend that wasn’t a politically motivated event, but we were hosts with the entrepreneurship society and with the DKE fraternity. That was our first campus event.
Could you talk a little more about how that went?
EB: We thought that went really well. It was just from 3PM to 5PM after the football game, and we just cooked burgers, and since it was us, the entrepreneurship society and DKE it was nice because lots of people were meeting up and just talking.
ES: We ended up getting a lot of donations for our Wounded Warriors project and all of the campus events we do that are charity events will probably be focused on this project.
What is your vision for the future of the group?
EB: We want to make sure that our presence is known on campus and that it’s a very open, inclusive group, so that anyone that wants to join or sit in on meetings is totally welcomed. We hope that we still continue to have a great relationship with WesDems and a very open political atmosphere on campus and we hope that we can host more events both politically related and not politically related to get our word and name out there.
ES: Really just to establish the political diversity on campus. I think that’s really important for the political health of the school and the students to have this established group and that’s sort of our main goal. We’re really hoping that any hostility fades into the background and that people realize that isn’t the purpose of our existence and that the people who do have such strong views about us simply existing will be able to put that aside and come and just listen to the speakers that we have.
EB: We have already had people that don’t affiliate with our club come and sit in on meetings and we think it went positively. They just got a sense of what we’re about.
ES: It was a really open discussion and what we found is that for the most part we all are between the ages of 18 and 22 and we all have questions. No one really knows as much as they may think they do. So it’s nice when people just came in and listened and asked questions.
Do you have any ideas for how to engage with the general student body to create more diverse dialogue?
EB: We just started up our Facebook page, which is going to be open for everyone just to see what we’re about. We also have a website that will be constantly updated as the year goes on.
ES: We also have a Twitter (@wesrepublicans) and we have a board member who’s responsibility is just sharing articles and current events which we think will be really helpful. Also, another big thing is that we’re working with WesDems on starting a completely bipartisan publication with one leadership board member from WesDems and one from WesRepubs that are going to co-run this publication. It’s going to be all student written with articles and essays that are politically relevant regardless of affiliation. We think it’s going to be huge because it’s just going to be an open student political debate in the form of a written publication.
Would you say that it would be beneficial for people that aren’t conservative or traditionally conservative to attend your meetings?
EB: Yeah definitely. If anyone wants to learn more we have a broad range of topics and anyone can email us with questions or bring up topics to address at wesrepublicans(at)gmail(dot)com. We really want to encourage viewing politics as more of a spectrum.
ES: It’s just providing a vehicle for people that may consider themselves liberal and affiliate with the Democrat party but they might have a couple of conservative views. We want to provide that vehicle in which they can discuss with other students and learn from professionals and debate with people who have opposing views, but not be questioned or criticized in terms of their affiliation.
Have you heard of Mytheos Holt ’10 (who was a very outspoken conservative at Wes)?
EB: Yeah, he contacted me actually. He was the vice president for the last Republican club that was on campus, but yeah, I read some of his articles and I know that sparked a really good debate. He contacted me and was really glad that the committee started back up and was moving along. When he left, the committee only had 60 people and he was really happy that we have over 60 now.
Anything else you would like to add?
EB: Just reinforcing that this is a very inclusive club and we are really open to having everyone come regardless of political affiliation, to learn more, strengthen any views you might have, and just have another open discussion.
ES: I also want to go back, in terms of the hostility, we obviously saw it but that’s not our focus. We realized that it would be that way regardless if it was the other way around and it didn’t discourage us at all. We really want to make it clear to everyone that our biggest support on campus is WesDems. They helped us through the entire process and we’re doing all sorts of bipartisan acitivites. Myself, Emma, and Marshal Lawler ’16 (President of WesDems) have all been working together. We just hope students don’t get discouraged by any hostility. It’s also great for people to debate over politics, and we wholeheartedly encourage those people to come to our meetings. Have a debate, we want that!
EB: The atmosphere of debating is what politics is all about, just making sure that it’s civil and respectful too.
And lastly where and when are your meetings?
Wednesdays from 8-9PM in PAC 004