by Marilyn La Jeunesse
New York University is one of the top liberal arts schools in the world. With a focus on innovation and change, and a large population of LGBTQ students, it is hard to imagine many conservatives attending the university. Despite the overwhelming majority, those on the right-wing do have a presence on the NYU campus. They join together under the name NYU College Republicans, one of many social clubs on the NYU campus. Megan Powers, a Gallatin junior and vice president of NYUCR opened up about the challenges and experiences of being a conservative on a traditionally liberal college campus.
“The stories we hear from our members is the reception from teachers or administrators is generally great. People aren’t out to push their political beliefs on you and they aren’t out to punish you for yours,” Powers said. “I’ve had teachers respect my opinion and thank me for contributing a dissenting opinion, and I’ve had one or two teachers who haven’t appreciated it so much.”
Despite the prejudices Powers, and many of the other members of NYUCR have experienced, the members of the College Republicans do not let opposing views prevent them from speaking out.
“I really enjoy sitting in classes and knowing I am probably the only one who shares my viewpoint,” Powers said. “I find that if you say something in a respectful manner and you’re willing to listen, people give you a mutual respect.”
The College Republicans club meets every Thursday on campus to discuss political ideation, upcoming legislation and listen to guest speakers. According to Powers, NYUCR have had many powerful figures, including congressmen and advisors, speak at their meetings. An estimated forty-fifty students show up each week for the meetings.
“The College Democrats don’t have significantly more numbers. That’s upsetting to me because I perceive that as a lack of interest or involvement in politics,” Powers said. “I think many people don’t recognize the importance of it in their own life. I know that percentage wise there are so many more Democrats that can be going to College Democrats and I wish that they would. I wish they would recognize how important it is.”
In addition to weekly meetings, NYUCR, in conjunction with the NYU College Democrats, holds a political debate each semester in which two members of each club debate two chosen topics. This semester’s debate topics included Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tax increases and gun control. Although the NYUCR and NYUCD debate against each other each semester, they do not let their differences get in the way of friendships.
“We are all friends. Everyone appreciates that the other side is involved and cares on campus,” Powers said. “We ultimately want the same thing at NYU: More active participation in politics and caring about political effect on students’ lives. We appreciate what the other club does.”
The members of NYUCR cover a spectrum of the right-wing. Many members are economically conservative and socially moderate. There are no far right members currently, however, a fluctuation in member demographics does seem to change during election years.
According to Powers the main goal of NYUCR is to help college students become more politically aware while maintaining a respect for opposing opinions.
“It’s dangerous to assume you’re right,” Powers says. “People would be much better off if they were open to be wrong. You learn a lot from people when you are willing to agree you’re not completely right.”
Powers, who is set to graduate next May, plans to begin her career in politics as a campaign consultant and political strategist. Eventually, she hopes to run for congresswoman in her home state Virginia.