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Carleton’s only Republican student group disbands

<rleton College Republicans (CCR) did not make an appearance at the Activities Fair this fall. The political clubs on campus may have noticed a difference in their line-up. The club has not restarted its activities and former members of the group say it has been disbanded. The group had been led by Patton McClelland ’17, and sources near the group say that after McClelland’s graduation last spring, the group disbanded because of a lack of leadership and official organization.

Rohan Mukherjee ’19, head of Students for Liberty, the libertarian student club, reported, “even under [McClelland] the Republicans group wasn’t very organized, people didn’t meet up regularly, there wasn’t very much passion or interest around conservative ideas.”

CCR was originally created in 2013 as a spin-off of an existing, yet somewhat inactive, group called the Carleton Conservative Union. The club’s disbanding leaves a conservative gap in political discourse on campus, which currently include groups such as the Carleton Democrats, Carleton Organization of Radicals and Leftists (CORAL) and Students for Liberty.

In the wake of this gap, Mukherjee says he believes more right-leaning students have been drawn to Students for Liberty as a place to express their political views. “When I had my sign-ups for my group last year, we had more leftists, we had more people who were interested in seeing liberty in this like broad not clearly defined terms and coming to terms with it and finding a definition.”

“Now at my activities booth this year we were immediately affiliated with the Republicans and conservatives, probably because there wasn’t a separate Republicans club, and probably because the word “liberty” is now associated with Trump and his rise. Now it’s really only Republicans and conservatives who are seeing this club as a safe haven to express their views.”

A first-year student, who wished to remain anonymous, reported that they had seen the club “listed on the student organization page and w[ere] disappointed that it was not still around.” The student reported that they had heard that the club had been disbanded because “student Republicans wanted to distance themselves from the party after last year’s election.”

Mukherjee reported that “I think in terms of the Carleton conservative, Republican, right-wing community, people are feeling the need to less and less associate and affiliate with that in any way, because it could be like a stint on their reputation or on the social life, or how they’re perceived by their friends because that immediately grants an affiliation with Trump. You can be the most vehement anti-Trump Republican, but still be branded under that same Trump umbrella.”

When asked about Republican voices on campus, the anonymous first-year responded: “The intrinsic pressure I have to remain anonymous throughout the course of this interview is evidence enough that there is something wrong with our community, and in my opinion, America as a whole.”

The anonymous first-year spoke of what they perceive as a continued polarization of political groups in the country, saying “Journalism is no longer bipartisan because being bipartisan doesn’t get you views. This is also a critique for both ends of the political spectrum. This has led people to become so one-sided that they won’t even associate themselves with the other crowd. Naturally, amidst this pressure, a minority group like Republicans on a college campus must choose between being socially ostracized, or blending in with the crowd and swallowing their beliefs.”

The first-year reported that while they had attended a Chapel-led discussion group, Practicing Religion and Ethics (PRAE), and felt heard and respected, generally they discussed their conservative views only “amongst friends, generally out of public view. After talking with the Students for Liberty’s president, I feel confident that I can speak my opinion openly without undue criticism in that setting.”

Mukherjee and the first-year both reflected on how campus climate and the political climate of our country are working together to create this divide. “The current political climate on college campuses in America is vastly one sided,” the anonymous student stated.

Citing the Carleton College Statement on Diversity, the first-year asked “how can this be true when nearly half of the United States population is not represented in any way? This is, in my opinion, mostly the fault of the institution and administration. It is up to them to encourage participation of all opinions. Furthermore, it is up to them to discourage the student body from ostracizing those that think differently than them.”

However, Mukherjee focused on the students, saying “I think people are really busy and have other priorities, but I also think that people don’t really seem as interested in the ideas of discourse and dialogue in the era of Trump. I think people want to remain entrenched in their ideological camp and not really engage politically with the other side.”

Mukherjee said he believed that, partly because Carleton conservatives did not wish to state their views due to perceived social consequences, “I think the Carleton Right, perhaps for as long as Trump is president, will probably not exist or be a present local body.”

Former members of CCR were unable to be reached for comment.

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