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Open political conversation needed on campus

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Today, college campuses are primarily liberal. They are so liberal that many Republican students feel underrepresented or even discriminated against. Some Democrats, including myself, would strongly disagree. Nonetheless, these feelings of underrepresentation by Republicans occur at St. Olaf.

Prior to the midterm elections, both the College Democrats and College Republians campaigned respectfully. The College Democrats displayed the party’s candidates in the tunnel between Buntrock Commons and Boe Chapel. Shortly after the Democratic display was taken down, College Republicans displayed their party’s candidates in the same location.

“We were kind of inspired by that and thought, ‘Why don’t we do our own kind of response?’ and just show the people the other part of the ballot,” Kathryn Hinderaker ’19, chair of Minnesota College Republicans and president of the St. Olaf Republicans, said.

Two days after the College Republicans display was put up, it was destroyed. Most of the material was thrown on the ground without much left intact. Campus polarization has been a problem at St. Olaf for a while. But to what extent should we allow the destructive expression of polarized opinions? Should one have free reign to distroy a political display? Some would call it bullying. I say otherwise.

“Campus polarization has been a problem at St. Olaf for a while. But to what extent should we allow the destructive expression of polarized opinions?” – Evelyn Slater ’22

The display was torn down out of frustration. I argue that the Republican Party supports some policies detrimental to the well-being of women and minorities, so it is understandable why one would tear down a display promoting candidates who support such policies.

A political party in which the freedom to have an abortion is up for debate is a threat to all women. A political party that elects a president with multiple sexual assault charges against him is, to say the least, problematic.

We turn on the news and we see promises to harm immigrants and strip them of their families. We see children in cages. The Republican display promoted candidates who support ideas that directly threaten some students.

I understand the College Republicans’ frustration with the destruction of their display, but I also understand why it was torn down. Yes, maybe it’s not fair to tear down a display that someone put effort into, but this issue deserves a higher level of seriousness.

The display is political and represents policies that directly affect some students. This is not an issue of party discrimination or campus polarization, it’s an issue of racist and discriminatory ideologies within the Republican party.

In response to this occurrence, Hinderaker expressed the need for students of both parties to have more discussions on these issues. She encouraged students to attend meetings and events held by the Institute of Freedom and Community at St. Olaf.

My interview with Hinderaker ended on a positive note, inspiring me to have more conversations with Republican students.

Perhaps more discussions could help Republican students understand why others feel threatened by their political party. Whether or not you think a conversation is the remedy for all political issues, it’s a place to start.


Evelyn Slater ’22 (slater2@stolaf.edu) is from Saint Cloud, Minn. Her major is undecided.