Rutgers University College Republicans discuss conservative ideals
For many at Rutgers, conservative views are the elephant in the room. For others, the elephant should be discussed and celebrated.
The Rutgers University College Republicans is a club that aims to promote conservative ideals and foster political discussion on the Rutgers campuses, said Claudia Azzam, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and the club’s vice president.
During the club’s bi-weekly meetings, about 30 members discuss current events, political or otherwise, to help students formulate their political views and encourage civic engagement in those that are not yet active in politics, said Najum Junaid, the club’s political director and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
“If you're simply not voting and not paying any attention, you're not having any effect on the process, and the process is going on without you,” Junaid said. “If you're voting, if you're helping out campaigns, you have a direct stake in the political process and you're affecting its outcome.”
Recently, the club discussed freedom of speech, outlining what was and was not defended by the first amendment, said Erik Rasmussen, a Rutgers Business School sophomore and College Republican.
In addition to providing a forum to discuss politics, the club provides lectures by guest speakers ranging from local legislators to economic experts to representatives of various political campaigns, Azzam said.
Most recently, the club hosted a speaker from the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). In the fall semester, economist Stephen Moore spoke to the club about economic freedom and economic recovery in the U.S., Azzam said.
While the club supports Republicans running for office and may host individuals from a particular campaign, it does not endorse any candidates, Rasmussen said.
Because of Rutgers’ location and the general political leanings of its student body, some Republican students have said they feel like they cannot share their conservative views.
“I do define myself as socially liberal but very fiscally conservative, so I'm more moderate, but I tend to vote Republican,” Rasmussen said. “There's kind of a connotation that being conservative can come across as not being one for social justice and being against a lot of policies that can help the general population.”
This bias can even seep into the classroom, Azzam said.
“A lot of my teachers always criticized, for example, Richard Nixon,” she said. “Its very hard to counter that especially when they have so much power in terms of grading you.”
To combat this, the club welcomes those with opposing views to further the political discourse.
“We encourage members who might not necessarily be conservatives or Republicans to come to our meetings and maybe they'll find that they agree with us and maybe they don't,” he said. “I think that it's a good forum for someone to walk into and learn more about the political process.”
Despite the political affiliation most of the club’s members share, their individual views vary.
To Rasmussen, being a Republican means being fiscally conservative, upholding family values and defending the Constitution.
Junaid’s views stem from a belief in the free market economics.
“The most important thing is that the government shouldn't be in your way. The whole Republican philosophy is limited government,” Azzam said. “We want power to go back to people and power to go back to the state.”
The club’s members are more politically involved that the average college student.
This is all the more true when they are compared to average Rutgers Students, who are some of the most politically apathetic in the nation, according to The Daily Targum.
“Bipartisan groups are important because they allow people to get a better understanding and perhaps choose a side or perhaps stay moderate and decide which specific issues they more side with,” Rasmussen said. “I think college is a very important time for people to start finding a political image.”
The candidates elected now would be the ones running the country when those now in college enter the workforce, he said.
“Making calls can help candidates get elected. Voting can help get candidates elected. If candidates with your views get elected, your ideas are represented,” Junaid said. “If your ideas aren't represented then you're essentially ignored in the grand scheme of politics.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.