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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

A Case for Reviving Middlebury College Republicans

Middlebury College has a strong reputation as a premier academic institution, and I am sure few would disagree that it is in everyone’s best interest for the college to provide a true liberal arts education. However, over the last several years, I have observed that part of the student body has become opposed to free speech, a trend made dire by what I view as relative complacency by the administration. My concern for liberal arts values including tolerance and open-mindedness has prompted me to revive the Middlebury College Republicans (MCR) club in order to bring more diverse views to campus and to better reflect the values of Middlebury. The main idea is to encourage respectful discourse and stimulate meaningful discussion that will enrich everyone’s college experience. 

Middlebury College Republicans is an organization for politically interested students to discuss current issues, politics, philosophy and more similar topics. While we will focus our activity through a conservative lens, anyone is welcome to join the club, regardless of their political beliefs or prior knowledge. We are aware of the many ideologies within conservatism and the Republican Party, and reiterate that people who hold diverse beliefs are encouraged to join the club. The club will seek to hold discussions, debates, mock elections, and events, and we will focus on advocating for conservative issues on campus and in Vermont. 

Our chapter of the College Republicans has a storied history in Vermont politics; in fact, Middlebury’s Executive in Residence and former Governor Jim Douglas was a leader in the club when he was a student here. The three main objectives I have in reviving the College Republicans are: creating a tolerant space for anyone who desires a place to discuss politics in a respectful manner, providing an outlet for people to express their repressed conservative views without fear of social consequence and restoring the credibility of liberal arts education that has been eroded by the rejection of free speech. 

Middlebury College ranks as the 16th-worst college for free speech in America according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s (FIRE) 2024 rankings. It is most ironic that Middlebury, along with other prestigious liberal arts colleges, consistently rank extremely low in free speech every year. Why? I subscribe to the common belief that the foundational principles of a liberal arts education include tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness, and I am concerned that Middlebury is failing to uphold these values. 

As we establish this club, I want to offer three related points. Firstly, it is not in anyone’s interest for any student to be bullied, harassed, stereotyped, or ostracized due to their beliefs, something that explicitly violates Middlebury’s Non-Discrimination Policy. A campus with such an attitude is an embarrassment to higher education, especially a school that prides itself on a culture of tolerance and diversity. 

Secondly, it is disrespectful and often blatantly inaccurate to assume or stereotype another student based on what you think you know about them. For example, it is irrational to assume that membership in the College Republicans automatically prescribes someone with certain beliefs. 

Thirdly, I am worried that at an elite liberal arts college like Middlebury the campus and intellectual atmosphere operate in a bubble, creating the illusion that the world is a monolith of progressive, left-wing thought. Unsurprisingly, people around the world possess extremely diverse views, and I believe that it is quite unfortunate that a school with many diverse and international students doesn’t seem to value diverse and international political beliefs. Middlebury has made it clear that they value diversity in the school’s demographics: students admitted for the Class of 2027 hailed from 45 states and 45 countries. Should not the political viewpoints on campus be reflective of this statistic? I urge students to recognize that future employers, neighbors and community members may practice different politics.

I opine here with respect, out of concern for the college which many of us love dearly. I intend to promote community and uphold academic virtue through my efforts in reviving the club. I believe there is a world of knowledge and experience we can learn from one another on this campus, and I enjoy discussing contemporary issues with those I disagree with. I am delighted to be able to say that I have many friends and classmates who hold differing beliefs that I have worked well with and have enjoyed conservation with. I want to preserve these sparks of a tolerant dynamic on campus for years to come. 

Please feel free to email us at mcr@middlebury.edu with questions or if you would like to join the club. We meet biweekly on Wednesdays at 6:00 PM in Axinn 103. You can also follow our Instagram @middmcr.


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