New political groups pop up on MCLA campus

NORTH ADAMS — Political activism is beginning to perk up on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus from a minority in this blue state — young Republicans.

The College Republicans chapter of the College Republican National Committee was approved by the college's Student Government Association last December, and joins two other recently revived student groups of a similar vein: the Political Science Club and Students for a Democratic Society. All three groups are open to students of any political affiliation, and say their mission and purpose goes beyond politics to focus on opening up avenues for dialogue and gathering on campus.

"The campus is not really politically active at all," said senior Kaitlin Wright, who's been double majoring in history and political science. She currently MCLA's College Republicans chapter, is president of the Political Science Club, and has the ultimate future political ambition.

"I'd like to run for president of the United States in 2032," she said. "That's the earliest I can run."

On a "good day," she said the Political Science Club brings in about 10 to 15 students to meetings, while the largest College Republicans meeting, which first met back in January, has had 30 attendees, ranging from self-declared liberals to libertarians.

"We have a wide variety of people, not just Republicans," Wright said.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, the Political Science Club and College Republicans co-sponsored a talk with Larry Pratt, controversial executive director of the national Gun Owners of America. It was the group's biggest talk to-date and Students for a Democratic Society President Emily Young attempted to organize a protest of Pratt's presence; he has previously been associated with meeting members of Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi group members. But the protest did not come to fruition.

Young, who could not be immediately reached, posted on the MCLA Students for a Democratic Society Facebook page about why she wanted to reactivate the organization. Young is a senior majoring in psychology with a minor in applied behavioral analysis. She writes, "I noticed that on our campus we had a College Republicans club, but no representation of the other side of the political system. I wanted to start a club that didn't just speak directly about democrats, but a club that could speak for those who believe in a democratic society! This group is what I hope will become a long standing tradition at the MCLA campus, letting us support each other in a time of a disappointing administration."

Wright said she hopes in the future to see more collaborations than protests when it comes to talking about hot-button issues on campus.

"I wish there was a College Democrats group on campus. We could do something more bipartisan, do more collaborative events. Our aim is to be accepting of anyone's opinions on campus but to have different views presented," Wright said.

Nolan Hickey, an MCLA junior studying computer science and political science, said, "We want to get people talking."

The College Republicans' previous activities have included a self-defense workshop, a barbecue with campus safety officials; a free speech workshop with Richard Taskin, professor of history, political science and public policy; and meetings with local state representative candidates for the 1st Berkshire District, Democrat John Barrett III and Republican Christine Canning.

Wright said some members of the Political Science Club and College Republicans have also done work with Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, and recently took a trip to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston on Oct. 25, when Winchester businessman John Kingston launched his 2018 Republican bid for U.S. Senate in an attempt to out current Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

MCLA junior Corey Powers, a member of the Political Science Club, said having such experiences, from events to trips to speakers, are a good way of "encouraging anyone to engage in dialogue" about the issues happening in the world around them. He said during the group's meetings, members mostly talk about politics in general and about how to get more young people involved.

"Discussion on different views is important. Even if you don't agree, you should listen to different sides. It's a good thing for democracy," Powers said.


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