Big tents: a tale of two Republican clubs

TBy Patricia Drey The two Republican groups at the University agree ideologically on almost everything, but disagreements over how to best convey those beliefs and which issues to prioritize separate them.

University College Republicans is a chapter in a state and national organization affiliated with Republican Party and focuses on campaign volunteering. Campus Republicans is an independent group that focuses on campus issues such as student fees.

“A student who doesn’t want to spend fall riding around on buses, door-knocking and lit-dropping might want to do more on-campus things with Campus Republicans,” said Tyler Richter, University College Republicans chairman. “A student who wants to get off campus more might do more with us.”

One of Campus Republicans’ current goals is a neutral check-off system at registration for student fees that support the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow.

Currently, students have to un-check boxes if they do not want to pay the fees. The College Republicans helped pass a Minnesota Student Association resolution in favor of the neutral check-off.

College Republicans, on the other hand, logged more than 800 campaign volunteer hours during summer and fall 2002, Richter said. The group also organized a pro-war rally at the end of March and plans to attend the College Republicans national convention in Washington this summer.

In the past, when the College Republicans were the only Republican group on campus, there was often friction between campus leadership and state leadership, said Dan Nelson, Campus Republicans chairman.

University club leaders wanted the state organization to support their agenda, rather than the individual club supporting the state agenda, he said.

This led a group within College Republicans to break away from the group and form a group called Campus GOP at the end of the 1999-2000 school year. The two groups met together during the 2000-01 school year but then split again in 2001, beginning the Campus Republicans.

“We think that the College Republicans state board is too intrusive on the individual campuses,” Nelson said. “They decided that it would be like an army, where you have individuals under this command hierarchy.”

Nelson said he sees positive and negative effects of the division among conservatives. He said things would be more organized with only one Republican group on campus, but that having two groups creates an appearance of more Republicans on campus.

Political science sophomore Tony Zammit has been involved with Campus Republicans since last fall and with the College Republicans for approximately a month.

“The College Republicans cut loose a little more, it’s more of a sport,” Zammit said. “With the Campus Republicans, it’s more of a holy crusade.”

Patricia Drey covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]