by Amanda Zambito
Megan Powers, a freshman at NYU in 2011, sits in her class on Occupy Wall Street alone—no teacher, no students.
Powers, a Republican, refused to participate in the in-class assignment to march in Occupy Wall Street. “I didn’t want to identify myself with the protestors,” she said. Her teacher told her that she either marches, or her grade will be reduced.
Powers offered to write a paper in lieu of marching, but her teacher declined. “She wasn’t [being] amenable to that,” said Powers. Only after Powers contacted a higher-up was she allowed to opt-out of the assignment without a grade reduction.
It would seem that a Republican at NYU, a university with a Democratic majority, would often face this form of political estrangement. Yet Powers attests the contrary. “That was one of the only times a teacher was negatively receiving me,” said Powers
With an open mind and calm demeanor, Powers voices her opinion and listens to those of others. “I find that if you say something in a respectful manner and you’re willing to listen… people give you a mutual respect that you give them,” said Powers. “By no means do I think I know everything all the time. I’m wrong a lot of the time, and there are simply things I don’t know,” she added.
Powers became the Vice President of the College Republicans in October 2013. The most difficult issue she has faced in this role is not political estrangement, but rather new member recruitment. Membership is particularly low during non-election years, when political coverage and interest declines.
Powers discovered the College Republicans during NYU’s Club Fest in her freshman year. “My parents wanted me to join a club where I could make ‘nice friends’,” said Powers. She joined both the College Republicans and the College Democrats before committing to the College Republicans.
The College Republicans and the College Democrats have an amicable relationship. “We’re all friends,” said Powers. When the members of the clubs argue, it is done in an orderly fashion during the joint debate these clubs host each semester. At these debates, members are able to express each party’s stance on trending political topics.
Sometimes, these clubs are more similar than different. “We all ultimately want the same thing at NYU: more active participation in politics.”