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Monday, August 08, 2005

Republican Youth on the Rise

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College Republicans On The MarchWASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2005

This article was written by Lauren H. Clark.

Berkeley, Oberlin, and NYU beware -- college Republicans are taking aim at the bastions of liberal academia, equipped with resources that blow most of their Democratic counterparts out of the water.

Feisty college Republicans are taking on what they see as the liberal establishment on college campuses across the country. They have $17 million in their war chest from the last two years alone, and three times as many chapters and twice the membership that they had just six years ago.

These young GOP's have a clear plan of attack that has already been executed at some of the nation's most traditionally leftie institutions.

First, confront liberal bias at the core by calling out professors they think are guilty. Next, get creative about attracting members and making conservatism cool on campus. Then, get prominent conservative speakers on campus, push to open student publications to conservative voices or start conservative newspapers.

Tired of being cast out on the sidelines of college life, a growing sector of the campus cons is looking to extend beyond the party's seersucker and horn-rimmed reputation -- and if that means spending hours passing out flyers in the middle of campus and adopting keg parties, so be it.

In the recent election for the new chairman of the College Republican National Committee, CRNC, a self-described "populist" from University of Calif. -- Berkeley nearly upset the frontrunner from South Dakota. In the tightest race in over 30 years, delegates from over 200 chapters barely chose former CRNC treasurer Paul Gourley -- seen as a stalwart from the previous administration -- over upstart candidate Michael Davidson.

A narrow 16-vote margin decided the eventual winner; the last time the election for chair was that close, an ambitious dropout from the University of Utah named Karl Rove came out on top. The College Republicans have been a GOP breeding ground whose past chairmen also include controversial strategist Lee Atwater, head of the Americans For Tax Reform Grover Norquist, and scandal-ridden lobbyist Jack Abramoff (he served twice). The notion their president could come from Berkeley was quite an awakening.

So how was Berkley’s Davidson able to pick up so much steam? With R&B artist Usher blasting in the background, Davidson described his goals as "more of a desire to include and empower the everyday college Republican -- the guy or girl who just gets picked up at a membership table." Calling for "more transparency" within the CRNC, his campaign fed off of the growing idea that college Republicans are now primed and ready to extend their influence among a greater variety of students.

"It's a matter of style," Davidson explained.

But growth requires money, and the CRNC is a relatively new player in the world large-scale fundraising. Before the campaign finance laws of 2002, the College Republicans were a subsidiary of the Republican National Committee, receiving a yearly stipend of $150,000. Now, the organization draws heavily from the help of alumni and Republican supporters nation-wide. From 2003 to 2004, the CRNC raised $17 million on its own, with upwards of $2 million going directly into usable funds. With this explosion of available cash, the organization has gained the means to drastically expand its ambitions.

One of the most effective ways to raise awareness about anything among the college-age set is to make it more, well, popular. While back in the 1960s heyday of student protests, liberal students charged conservative-leaning professors with marginalizing liberal viewpoints in the classroom, the Republican radicals of today insist that their voices are being silenced by ex-hippie academics.

"When [students] listen to Democrats and their college professors, they're getting a message that's not what they hear at home or in the mainstream media," said CRNC Executive Director Doug McGregor. "And that's just not what they agree with."

They have a point. In the 2004 presidential race, professors at America's top-five schools (ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, The University of Pennsylvania and Duke) sent almost 96 percent of their political donations to Senator John Kerry's Democratic campaign. The numbers are even more lopsided in some fields of study. A 2003 survey found that in some departments, such as sociology and anthropology, liberal-leaning faculty outnumbered conservatives by almost thirty-to-one.

According to an increasingly vocal contingent of campus conservatives, the carryover of liberal political bias into the classroom is undeniable.

"I've definitely felt uncomfortable with a professor who was very involved with the Dean Campaign. It was a very small class in my freshman year and I was terrified to let it be known that I was a conservative. I really was afraid that he would attack me and I knew that I would not be able to stand up to him. The man had been a professor for thirty years, and I knew that I didn't know enough then to take him on," said Julie Aud, a junior at the University of Indiana and press secretary for the campus' College Republicans. "As conservatives we should never have to feel uncomfortable in the classroom because of our beliefs."

In response, students have taken matters into their own hands by speaking out in class, challenging their professors and compiling an extensive record of just how often teachers shoot opposing ideas down. And they're doing it systematically.

To document bias, websites run by outside organizations, such as Students for Academic Freedom, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education, Campus Watch, and, encourage students to post examples of their personal experiences. Postings are listed by date or school, with accusations ranging from casual anti-Bush administration remarks and narrowly-focused readings, to all-out refusals to address student comments.

Increasingly, conservatives are also creating their own alternatives to popular on-campus activities that are aimed at ruffling feathers of their liberal counterparts.

Back in February 2003, at the height of the debate over affirmative action at the University of Michigan, -- aimed at defying discrimination by giving minorities priority in the college application process -- the College Republicans at UCLA staged an "Affirmative Action Bake Sale." By charging minorities and women less for brownies and chocolate chip cookies, the chapter intended to rub passersby the wrong way, but the event soon took on a life of its own.

By March, 2005, at least five more had popped up around the west coast, and by the end of the school year, the phenomenon had spread to dozens of chapters throughout the country, inciting controversy in almost every case.

At New York University -- where mohawks, piercings, tattoos and anti-establishment warriors have long found a home -- protesters swarmed the Republicans' table soon after it was set up. Within weeks, an even larger group gathered in a formal rally for affirmative action, on-campus diversity and increased financial aid.

Another on-campus attention grabber is the "Conservative Coming Out Day", which features students touting their viewpoints in central areas of campus, hoping to gain as much attention as possible. As a blatant spoof of popular celebrations of gay, lesbian, queer and transgender sexual orientation that go by a similar name, these "Coming Out Days" are meant to emphasize how marginalized some feel in their day-to-day lives. Often though, they are seen as a mocking attack on liberal sympathies toward issues such as gay marriage and homosexual civil rights, or even as attacks on gays themselves. Either way, they certainly succeed at gaining notice.

Something is working. While in 1999 the organization had fewer than 100,000 students in just over 400 chapters, it has grown today to include over 200,000 members in 1,500 chapters nation-wide.

McGregor attributes this dramatic rise to two factors: the resurrection of their "Field Program", which features hired college students who work full time for the CRNC to spread recruiting tactics, and the popularity of President George W. Bush.

"College students used to go through life and issues didn't really affect them, and I think after 9/11, they stepped back and said 'Hey, this really does affect us,'" said McGregor in attempting to explain the motivation for casual politicos to become activists.

The rise in membership brings with it a greater demand for conservative voices in campus publications, which many say are dominated by liberal commentary and story choices. Thanks in a large part to outside organizations such as the Virginia-based Leadership Institute, which offers one-day workshops on how to either infiltrate existing campus papers, or attract the means to start up their own, this is becoming increasingly possible. Though not officially linked to the College Republicans, the Leadership Institute's Campus Leadership program created 22 new conservative campus publications in 2004. Of course, many of these were aided by $500 grants taken out of the Institute's pockets, but the CRNC is ready and willing to take any assistance it can get.

While the College Republicans have yet to become the coolest club on every campus, they've certainly become more noticeable and they're intent on making themselves heard.

By Lauren H. Clark©MMV, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CRs across the nation are kicking butt. Lets keep it up!


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