By Loren Brewer
Images courtesy of USU College Republicans Facebook page, courtesy of Mikey Rodgerson; Students for Liberty courtesy of studentsforliberty.org; http://www.democrats.com
If any place in the world could fit the ideal of the market place of ideas,especially in the world of politics, college campuses would be my top contender. Even in a county that some have termed the “Bastion of the Conservatism”, Utah State University’s campus has brought a healthy and at times lively debate as it comes to politics to Cache Valley.
Don’t believe me? I hold January, 2012, as my prime example. As I went to the College Republican’s Pizza and Politics with Gov. Gary Herbert, an event hosted by the College Republicans, I noticed them passing around a petition protesting the currently prosed tuition hikes for the possible addition of new fields and recreation center.
This isn’t an isolated incident on campus. Frequent the Taggart Student Center or library and I guarantee that you will be greeted and solicited at least once by one organization or another.
Why should you care about this? For most of us the subject of politics is a touchy subject.Some avoid it because they are afraid to go out of their comfort zones—as some of my friends frequently remind me—or are afraid to start a fight over some deeply held political beliefs.But I sally forth a guess that most of us just don’t know where to find information about them. But we are college students. What better time to thrust ourselves into the spectrum of politics then while we are still studying and growing?
With this purpose in mind, I dove deeper into the campus organizations, I discovered there are four official political organizations currently on campus, excluding organizations connected to the campaigns of candidates (don’t worry, they’ll have a chance to share the limelight). They are, in no particular order, USU College Democrats, USU College Republicans, and USU Students for Liberty. (A fourth Young Americans for Liberty,is mentioned on USU webpage, but I received past-the-deadline response to them when I solicited a chance to interview them about their organization. For that reason, I have not mentioned them in this article.)
Let’s start with a background of the political organizations themselves, just to give a base. The Republican Party was formed in 1854, just around the time of the civil war.The Democratic Party was formed about 20 years earlier, in 1830. According to the Students for Liberty website, the organization was founded in 2007 by a group of students in the Institute for Humane Studies Koch Summer Fellowship. It grew into a formal organization after a Feb. 2008 conference. The big question: when did these parties and organizations come to USU?
To answer that question I chatted with the current campus presidents about the organizations they represent, which was no easy task with these busy individuals. In fact, the interview I conducted with the president of the College Republicans was an amusing one. I joined him on an errand and interviewed him in his car.
BluePrint (BP): First off, describe your organization:
Laura Anderson (Democrat):We believe that there is a role for government whether that be through funding or through social programs. The better use of government is to improve the lives of its citizens.
MikeyRodgerson (Republican): A Republican is conservative and moral. I feel like they are fundamental. They keep family values. Not just what’s convenient but what’s right.
Justin Hinh (Students for Liberty): We believe in being allowed to live life as you see fit as long as you don’t infringe on others.
BP: What is the history of your organization on campus?
Anderson (D): As for USU, there is no official date as to the founding. The current leadership of the College Democrats has been part of the leadership for a year and a half.
Rodgerson (R): No idea when I started, I have been involved the past year. Before me they [the College Republicans] were active but did not have a lot of members.
Hinh (SFL): Started in the fall of 2010, originally as College Libertarians, but that was a failure. I discovered Students for Liberty and I became the campus coordinator. In the spring of 2011, we reorganized the group. It was a lot more successful.
BP: What should students know about your organizations?
Anderson (D):We are starting to inform the campus on local, national, and international issues. We want to make the campus more politically aware and present the democratic side.
Rodgerson (R): We are here, we exist. There are lots of comments about us but we are not lame. We are emphasizing the college in our name. I had the opportunity to sit down with other presidents for other campuses. They were kind of boring. We aren’t. We’ve thrown parties, organized protests, and brought the Governor, Senators, and other congressmen to the campus. We will have the national chair of the homosexual republicans (Log Cabin Republicans) coming Feb 9th. (When the interview took place this had yet to happen.)
Hinh (SFL): We work with both sides of political spectrum. We work with the Republicans more as they are more active.
BP: How are your organizations generally received on campus?
Anderson (D): Most students are nice. We haven’t done much to alienate students. We aren’t overwhelmingly popular but our activities are well received.
Rodgerson (R):Depends on whom you are asking. Students love and appreciate events. The university*does not like us. But we work around them.
Hinh (SFL): We’ve had great success. Other groups are respectful, even friendly, in spite of differences. Students are not enthused, most are apolitical. But I enjoy the western culture**, even if a person disagrees, they are respectful or quite. It is the best for teaching not for political activism.
*After a follow up question, Rodgerson clarified that he meant the administration of the university.
** In general, the western region of the United State as a whole, not including California.
BP:What does involvement with your group mean for the average student at USU?
Anderson (D): We try and help in major election years. Pick international issues and help inform the locals. We do a lot with the Cache Democrats.
Rodgerson (R):They have leadership opportunities. Each member gets a chance to put on an event with a committee for support. They have access to internships with the government. They attend a school put on by the Leadership Institute on how to be a grassroots activist.
Hinh (SFL): Two levels of involvement. Leadership, we organize and get things going. Anyone can be involved if they show potential. The secondary level is those students that come and enjoy the events of the organization.
BP: How are perceptions of your group different from how they actually are?
Anderson (D): Many believe Democrats are fiscally irresponsible. About spending, we believe government can help with social programs. We support reasonable tax rates, spending, etc.
Rodgerson (R):Perceptions of Republicans very different from actuality; someone who hates poor, old, gay and the environment. Not true, completely untrue. We love the environment; just go about it in a different way. The opposition (Democrats) is better at shaping arguments and we look like tools.
Hinh (SFL): Most people think we are libertarians or don’t even know or care we exist. Most people in the group seem libertarian but some are liberal or conservative. Most just want a free market.
BP: How are your organizations connected to state and national parties?
Anderson (D): We work with Federation of College Democrats. They are the go between with state and college Democrats. For example, we brought the chair of the State Democratic Party to USU with their help. Nothing has been done yet with the national party, except individually working through internships.
Rodgerson (R):President of the College Republicans becomes an honorary chair of the Cache (County) Republicans. They help us out with events. In turn we help out with parades and help students have good interaction with the Republican Party. We as a group aren’t allowed to support candidates in the primary. When a candidate is chosen they receive full support.
Hinh (SFL): We are legally prohibited from endorsing parties. The group is part of a whole national and international organization. We go to conferences all around the country. The organization is very closely connected.
There you have it, but don’t just take my word for it. Check out their websites for more information about these organizations and their affiliates or check out the events that they hold on campus.
Check out later this February for articles from the presidents of these organizations.
Utah Federation of College Democrats Facebook page
USU College Republicans website
USU College Republicans Facebook groups
USU Students for Liberty Facebook page
Students for Liberty website