The presence of the recently revived Haverford College Republicans club at this fall’s Activities Fair may have come as a surprise to some members of the Haverford community.
In recent years, the lack of a club through which Republican students could organize led to the appearance of an entirely liberal campus. Under the leadership of co-presidents David Block, Henry Millson, John Schipper and Matt Seskin (all ’13), the new club will serve as a way for students to vocalize conservative values and provide a community for Republican students, according to Block.
Plans for this fall include a debate co-hosted with the Haverford College Democrats and moderated by the non-partisan Student Political Network. Club leadership also budgeted for an election night party, but as of the initial round of budgeting had not received funds.
“We’ve talked to the [Haverford College Democrats], we’ve talked to SPN, and I think they are really just excited to have an opposition that they can have an open dialogue with in front of the entire school community,” said Block.
In a statement on behalf of the Haverford College Democrats, co-presidents Lee Anderson ‘15 and Nora Howe ‘14 said that they “are happy to see the return of the Haverford College Republicans on campus. We look forward to working with them on future events.”
Originally founded in 2003 by Doug Genna, Greg Reed and Adam Stover (all ‘06), the Haverford College Republicans helped with local elections, participated in debates and created a community for Republican students. In founding the club, there “was an interest in demonstrating to the Haverford community that there is a diversity of political opinion on campus, and that it is okay not to conform to the political views often expressed by students, faculty, and the administration,” said Reed. The initial energy for the club eventually died down, until the organization completely disappeared a few years ago.
Inspired by the upcoming election, the current club presidents decided that it was time to officially bring it back. David Block had similar objectives to Reed’s.
“I thought it would be nice if in the future people who have similar ideological beliefs as myself would have a small close-knit community,” said Block.
Zac Werrell ‘13, the club’s vice president, views such a community as a necessity because, in his view, many students on campus who identify as Republican or conservative don’t feel comfortable sharing their beliefs with others. “I have no problem voicing my views or interpretations,” he said. “However, I know many conservative or Republican students are often scared or ashamed to speak up in class, so perhaps this will show them that it is okay to be a Republican.”
Republican students first began to organize this summer under the leadership of Werrell, who on August 26 created a Facebook group where Republican students could connect.
“Within a few hours of posting the group on the Haverford Facebook page, I already had 10 people sign up, which was about what I was expecting,” said Werrell. The group now has grown to 26 members, and includes Bryn Mawr students.
Building an institutional legacy to ensure the survival of the club following the election is crucial to the co-presidents. They hope to host a few meetings a month and have “opportunities for looking at conservative commentators or conservative programming,” said Block. Additional plans for the club will be implemented after the election of class officers. Henry Millson said that he hopes that by putting underclassmen into leadership roles, they will build a club structure that can survive in non-election years.
Peter Kondelis ‘16 is one underclassman who plans to be an active member of the Haverford College Republicans. He hopes that the club will frequently host debates “for educational purposes” and “serve as a place to talk conservative policy.” With local Republicans competing for positions in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Senate, Kondelis would like to see the club become active in those campaigns over the next few weeks.
Involvement at the local level is something that Millson wants to see continue. He hopes that the proximity of the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth to the campus will encourage future collaboration between the Haverford College Republicans and the local Republican Party.
As the co-presidents lead the organization through the upcoming election, Reed hopes that they “get the club involved in a local campaign.” His advice? “Try—try—to keep the College’s liberals honest, [and] read plenty of George F. Will.”
Correction: Due to an editorial error, an earlier version of this story listed the club’s co-presidents as members of the Class of 2015.