There has been some buzz on campus about the new student group Trent Republic, the conservative alternative to the Trent Liberty group. This relatively young group has been making quite a few ripples on campus, especially since the public vandalism of their promotional posters. Arthur decided to catch up with Sean Dobranski and Alexander Walsh, President and Vice President of the club, to get their take on all of this.
Why was the club started? What is it’s primary objective?
Sean: We started the group because we wanted to have our views, our conservative views, shown on campus because Trent comes off as a very leftist liberal school. So, I just wanted my opinion to be heard and also give people an opportunity to to have open discussion and encourage free speech.
Alexander: Most universities are very left leaning. I have seen a conservative organization at Ryerson , where my father teaches, and I thought, “Thats a great idea. Let’s start something similar.” So, I talked to the guy who runs that and he told me about his good experiences and he told me how he did it, so we started off. We started pretty small, but now we have got quite a few people… about 16 or 18 administrative members and a total of 21.
S: So far we have had one poster campaign and we are working on our website, and our Facebook page, of course.
Trent is a rather left leaning school as you just mentioned. Do you feel this puts you at a disadvantage and if so, how do you plan to over come this obstacle?
S: I don’t think this puts us at a disadvantage at all. I think it’s great because our members are passionate individuals who want to get involved. I don’t think it hurts at all. I actually think it helps us because we are the opposite group of most people, so people will be more inclined to come out and debate us. We actually met a lot of people in Trent Liberty who are conservative but did not have a voice, so Liberty was the closest thing they had. It’s a case of quality over quantity.
Who will this group be representing?
S: We plan to represent the Conservative Party values and give them a platform (at Trent).
A: We are in the process of getting recognized by the official Conservative Party, so we will be getting some benefits from that.
What kind of events are you hoping to host?
S:We are hoping to have some speakers come over, like MPs and members of Parliament. Trent Liberty has actually approached us about hosting events together, so we will be working on that. There are also some American personalities we have been looking at. If we actually do get recognition from the Conservative Party, we will be able to afford that.
How will you account for division within the group, because people have varying levels of conservatism?
A: We have certain policies and beliefs that we hold as an organization, but when it comes to things like social issues we would rather our members have their own opinions. So, for our writers we make it clear that their view might not represent us as on organization, but as an individual.
The Trent Republic has been referred to as an inflammatory group, among other things. Do you agree with this label? If yes, why does the group take this stance? If not, what do you think caused this misconception?
A: We don’t believe in sitting back. We thought about sitting back and just being on the defensive, but you can take blows for long enough, but eventually it’s not going to move you anywhere. Some people say our response (to the vandalism) may have been assertive, but I think that is just the best way of making a stand. We are all for people saying what they want, but we aren’t just going to let it go over our heads.
S: I noticed in some of my classes I get called names like a racist or a homophobe, for having different views.
In your blog responding to the vandalism of Trent Republic posters, you put up a picture that implied that liberals use ad hominem labels, such as homophobe or racist, instead of listening to the argument. Do you feel that this may be hypocritical as the poster itself is a generalization?
A: People on the right tend to be really individual thinkers. If there is something we don’t agree with we kind of disassociate with it. In my personal experience, people on the left don’t tend to disassociate with people who may have extreme views and we feel that by not disassociating with them then you are just enabling people and perpetuating the generalization. With labels, shockingly even in my classes I have people calling me racist while discussing money issues. Why are you bringing the word racist into a discussion that has nothing to do with it? You are watering the term racist to fit the needs that my political philosophy doesn’t match yours. We felt that it definitely worked well because that’s what we have been experiencing.
Do you think that people feel like they are under a lot of pressure to fall into a group, either conservative or liberal?
A: I think in Canada, as the NDP Party moves to the centre, it helps a lot of people who aren’t quite sure.
S: I think at Trent a lot of neutral people just decided to join the group. But there are also a lot of people who probably think like we do, but are afraid to say so because they are afraid of all the name calling.
You mentioned disassociating the group from people who are a bit to radical and gang ho in their conservatism. Do you have a filtering system in place to sort out these types?
A: I wouldn’t use the term filtering; we are definitely open to everyone. We don’t really have a set application system. If someone comes up to us and says they want to get involved then we give them a chance to. We are a bit more picky with our writers because we don’t want to give just anyone access to our website, but if people want to participate in our forums or comment on our website they are perfectly welcome to do so.
What other positions are open on Trent Republic besides as a writer or administrator?
A: That is something we are definitely working on at the moment. We are debating whether or not we are going to have some writing positions that don’t have as much access to the website. But anyone who wants to participate is considered a member. Next year we will probably be schedueling more frequent meetings, probably about once a week.
S: We are also planning on having an official launch party during the welcome back week. We are hoping it will be able to cater to the new students, as well as returning ones planning to get involved.
What do you think is the importance of political debate?
A: We are hoping that both sides can sit together, discuss the issues and come to a consensus that will better the lives of people on campus. We are hoping to get some members to run for positions in TCSA, so that we can have a platform that caters to the issues of our members as well.
With two groups on campus representing opposite sides of the spectrum, we can now hope that Trent will have a platform for healthy political debate that will inspire more analytical thought on political issues. To find out more about the Trent Republic you can go to their website at http://www.trentrepublic.ca/ or drop by their General Meeting this Tuesday. March 5 at 7:00 p.m. in Bata Library Room 401