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2013 Fall Issue 4 (October 18, 2013)

Conservatives at Carleton: Do They Have a Voice?

October 18, 2013
By Naeh Klages-Mundt

It’s no secret that the majority of the Carleton campus is politically liberal. But a new wave of conservative students has come together to re-form the counterpart to Carleton Democrats (CarlDems).

“We need to create more diversity on campus and show that our points are valid even if others disagree with us,” says Vincent Spinner ’15, the founder and head of the Carleton College Republicans, a new organization on campus this year. He hopes to create awareness on campus about conservatism and avoid poor mischaracterizations of republican ideals.

Initially, Spinner joined a pre-existing group , the Carleton Conservative Union, as a freshman, but the lack of participation motivated him to re-invent it as the Carleton College Republicans. “Before this year, [conservative culture at Carleton] was virtually non-existent,” he remarked. With nearly 40 signups at the activities fair last month, the group appears to be poised for growth and development.

While Carleton is typically a very open community, remarks Spinner, there inevitably exists some who believe their political views are infallible. While Obama posters were widespread around campus preceding the 2012 presidential election, republican campaign materials were lacking. To fix this, Spinner put up Romney posters, but to no avail; “all of the posters got ripped down,” he recalls.

Spinner highlighted the importance of diffusing hostilities and maintaining respect for the views others espouse: “We aim to provide a safe environment for people to talk about different ideas without being attacked. […] Our primary goal is not to shift other people’s point of view, but to change our stereotype.” The only debate, Spinner says, is between “left and more left.” On that note, he wishes for others to “realize with an open mind that there is another valid point of view” that’s not being heard.

Michael Hovick ’14, a member of the Carleton College Republicans, shared the sentiment: “I feel that the republican/conservative culture on campus is incredibly important. As someone who identifies with the Republican Party, I think it is essential that students on campus provide a variety of perspectives on political issues.”

For Hovick, discussing political issues is not only intellectually engaging, but also fun and exciting: “I especially remember discussing deep politically driven questions with my freshman year roommate. What makes Carleton great is the acceptance of one’s political beliefs, and having respectful and intellectual discussions about each others’ beliefs facilitates an understanding of different views on important issues.”

Speakers of differing political backgrounds are often invited to convocations, which helps add unheard voices and perspectives to campus dialogue. Indeed, conservative political commentator and former United States Treasurer Bay Buchanan will deliver Convocation on October 25, offering a conservative perspective on immigration.

Conservative voices are also encouraged in the classroom setting. “The Economics and Political Science professors are extremely receptive to our views,” says Spinner. According to Spinner, a course on the history of conservative thought will be taught next year at Carleton. A course on the merits of intellectual conservatism will surely ameliorate others’ understanding of conservative thinking and logic.

Spinner was enthusiastic about the prospects of coordinating events, such as symbolic non-partisan fundraisers, between the Republican and Democratic organizations on campus. “We would also love to host debates, where we can come together to have civil discussion.”

The Carleton College Republicans held their first meeting this week. Spinner is intent on avoiding typical party propaganda and instead wants to work to help others understand a different way of thinking. “We welcome anyone to come at any time. We just want to create a safe environment where people can discuss, debate, and learn why we think what we think.”

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