The Carleton College Republicans (CCR) has returned to campus following a year of inactivity during the 2017-18 academic year.
In October 2017, the Carletonian reported that the CCR had disbanded due to a lack of official organization after the group’s leader, Patton McClelland, graduated in spring 2017.
A Minneapolis Star Tribune article from April 2018 reported that the cause of the club’s dissolution seemed unclear, but said it may have been due to lopsided campus politics and the minority status of Republicans at the school.
And now, since the beginning of fall term, the club is back.
“I founded it upon contact with other conservative students at Carleton,” said James Craig ’21, the new club head of the CCR. Plans for its return started as early as winter term last year; those ideas finally came to fruition fall term this year.
Ned Wang ’19, the club’s treasurer, discovered the club during a Career Fair two years ago.
“They’d only had a couple of meetings; they were all seniors,” he said. “Then it stopped sending out emails [and] the club sort of died.”
Then, suddenly, he began receiving emails again.
“I was interested in joining back up,” he said.
Sharaka Berry ’18, an alum and former Representative for the class of 2018, claims the club disbanded due to hostility towards conservatives on campus—along with a lack of leaders due to several seniors having graduated.
The source of the hostility, to Berry, is that “many in the Carleton community [associate] being conservative with immoralityand bigotry.”
CCR “is important to campus discourse,” he said. “We as a community have a lot of work to do when it comes to having healthy discourse. It’s good that the club has a presence on campus but the club needs to make sure to disassociate itself from bigotry as much as possible. It would not be… positive if the [CCR] was as bigoted as the community believes it to be.”
According to Craig, one main goal of the new iteration of the club is to instill a feeling of community.
“We don’t have much information as far as exactly what was going on last time, but we are focusing, this time, on fellowship among conservatives, working with local election campaigns and trying to network with other political organizations on campus for cooperative events,” he said.
The club currently has weekly meetings and is working with both Angie Craig’s and Jason Lewis’s campaigns—along with St. Olaf’s political organizations—for the purpose of bringing a congressional debate to Northfield. They are also attempting to bring in convocation speakers.
The club is currently attempting to schedule debates open to all students on campus in order to foster inclusive political discourse.
To Wang, the reception to the club on campus has generally been positive.
“I haven’t really noticed anything—at least for me, it’s just another club I go to,” he said. “I know that for some other people, there was some concern about being allowed to fit in with the college.”
Craig added that he has a very tolerant group of friends and while they do not agree with his political views, they support his involvement with the CCR.
“A lot of them are outright positive [about] the existence of the club in general,” Craig said. They see it as “an indicator of political diversity on campus… There’s a small minority of people I’ve encountered who have said it’s a bad thing, but those people are few and far between.”
Patton McClelland, the former leader of the CCR, joined the club the fall term of his freshman year in 2013. Raised in South Carolina, he said, he was almost constantly surrounded by conservatives and Republicans.
“Going into college, I wanted to get involved in an organization associated with politics and world events [in order] to learn how to debate, stay up to date with what was happening in the world and to learn from others who had different viewpoints than me,” he said.
McClelland expressed that conservatives make up a minority of the students at Carleton.
“Carleton is one of the most liberal college campuses in the nation,” he continued. “Therefore, many people immediately think that the [CCR] would be filled with a bunch of extreme ‘tea-party’ conservatives trying to push an extreme conservative or ‘Trump-like’ agenda. This was not the case at all.”
According to McClelland, the CCR instead fostered a range of political ideologies, from conservative to moderate to, sometimes, even liberal. He described the club as a “place for discussion, where everyone was encouraged to speak, share their views, and learn from each other without worrying that their opinions would be shot down and dismissed.”
The administration has not been opposed to the CCR in the past, according to McClelland.
They have “been greatly indifferent to the CCR. However, they did allow us to have a guest speaker, Bay Buchanan, speak for convocation during my freshman or sophomore year,” he said.
Many students, he claimed, were intolerant of the speaker and booed her during the speech.
“Several political science professors did support the CCR during my senior year,” he continued, “by helping to organize and hold a round-table discussion in the Weitz Center open to any students who were interested. During the meeting, all of the attendees, about 30 students with views from across the political spectrum, sat in a circle and shared their general political beliefs, how they developed their opinions and anything else that they wanted to speak about.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for many who attended as they learned that even on a campus as liberal as Carleton’s, there is still a significant amount of diversity in opinion,” he said.
In regards to the new iteration of the club, “I think that [the] Carleton administration will be supportive,” Berry later said.