Student Republicans Break the Silence
College Republicans Seek More Understanding from Campus Community
February 2, 2005 8:38 AM
Just two and a half years ago, there was no group for a conservative students at SF State to join. As the spring 2005 semester begins, the College Republicans are one of the most talked about organizations on campus, and have plans to stay that way.
After the disagreements and arguments on campus during the days surrounding the 2004 presidential election, fighting misconceptions about themselves has been a constant battle for the group that was started by SF State students Maria Trapalis and Diana Bautista.
One day before the election, a heated debate between President George W. Bush supporters and Sen. John Kerry supporters broke out at the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Campus police were called to break up the disturbance and accusations flew between some College Republicans and Bush opponents.
The negative publicity the incident received locally is a sore spot for the group, and current president Derrick Wray, 27, plans to work toward opening minds and keeping negativity out.
“A lot of us are worried about how people are going to feel about us,” said Wray. “We don't want those negative things to happen again.”
As the semester kicks into high gear, the College Republicans are kicking their organization into high gear. Happier with the national outlook for Republicans than with their prospects on campus, the College Republicans want the truth as they see it to come out.
Last semester was difficult for the group's image, said Wray, but they are coming back this semester to get the word out even more. Now that students know they are here, their next goal is to get their message across. The attention from last semester's controversy has taken the focus away from what is important for the group, said international relations major and vice president Chris Finarelli, 21.
“I've been disappointed,” said Finarelli. “We haven't been able to focus on what we need to.”
“It's so outrageous, the things I hear in classrooms from both students and teachers,” he said.
“The conservative side of the story [is] never taught,” said Finarelli. “Ask anyone, [Republicans are] rich white men who want to exploit Third World countries,” said Finarelli. “[Republicans] are actually extremely compassionate, value personal responsibility and traditional values.”
The negative image of Republicans at SF State is a concern for many group members, but it also adds determination to group members to get the word out and clear up what they feel are unfair stereotypes, said Wray. “Many people don't know where we stand,” he said. “We want to open minds.”
That includes debates with other groups, getting involved with the media on campus and becoming more visible. Yet being visible has caused some problems for group member Lucia Vandenhof, 21, a BECA major. Being recognized as a College Republican at SF State has been a negative experience at times.
“I wasn't looking forward to school because I'm in an environment that's not tolerant,” said Vandenhof.
“The more lies and repercussions, the more I want to fight for [people] to see who we really are,” she said.
Vandenhof “stayed in the closet” for fear of the “liberal climate on campus,” but said that talking to people that understand her is a relief. Like many people, her views are not exclusively conservative. She is pro-choice and a fiscal conservative, anti-affirmative action but believes in equal rights for gays and lesbians.
With active membership at about 20 and hoping for growth in the future, the campus Republican organization will be pushing their agenda this semester in the face of criticism, but with enthusiasm.
“Don't be afraid to approach us,” said Finarelli. “Even if you strongly disagree with us.”
In recent months, campus groups have faced off over the presidential election, the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several groups have appeared in [X]press coverage of campus protests, rallies or conflicts, but rarely have these groups been covered outside of these kinds of incidents.
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