The beginning of a new semester is traditionally a time of recruitment and increased student involvement in different organizations on campus. At Winterfest, the University of Michigan chapters of both College Republicans and College Democrats had tables to promote mobilization and their respective agendas for 2017.
With President-elect Trump’s inauguration only a week away, the two political groups are focused on how the new administration will affect their future efforts to promote various ideologies, as well as increasing student political efficacy, which would lead to wider involvement and student knowledge about current political events.
While the University College Republicans are “thrilled” about President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, according to LSA junior Enrique Zalamea, president of the organization, they plan to focus largely on local Michigan state politics during the winter semester. They have specifically decided to support University Regent Ron Weiser in his campaign for Michigan Republican Chair.
“We decided to support him, and we’re going to be helping him out throughout conventions — there’s one convention in February that he told us we could send as many volunteers over there as we can, and we definitely plan on doing so,” Zalamea said.
According to Weiser’s website, his campaign for Regent included promises to “straighten U of M’s books and reduce the burden on the taxpayers of Michigan.” Weiser also states on his website his history and political credentials are focused centrally on “defeating Barack Obama’s liberal agenda” and fighting hard against the power of Unions. Similarly, Weiser ran with the promise of cutting costs so students at campuses such as UM-Flint or UM-Dearborn may receive the same quality education as that which is provided by the University’s main Ann Arbor campus.
College Republicans also expressed their plan to tackle the issue of identity politics — the phenomenon of people in particular groups of society, such as race, religion or socioeconomic status, forming political alliances that deviate from traditional broad-based parties — within the campus community this semester.
The Michigan College Republicans believe this tendency has a profound impact on free speech on college campuses, and has decided to take a firm stance on expanding free speech rights at the University. On campus, the question of what constitutes hate speech, and whether or not the vocalization of certain ideas may lead to an unsafe environment, has been called into question. Immediately following Trump’s victory, certain violent images painted on the Rock, a University landmark at the intersection of Hill Street and Washtenaw Avenue, caused the community to examine potential divisive issues of certain speech.
“We definitely want to address identity politics, and how it plays a role in the University,” said Zalamea. “That’s one of our biggest focuses, and how it ties into free speech on college campuses.”
The College Democrats at the University too are changing their trajectory for the winter semester and replacing electoral work, which focused largely on the potential success of Hillary Clinton in the general election, with work toward progressive issue advocacy. Four issue committees are housed within the greater College Democrats organization: women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, social justice and the environment. Each of these committees has wide discretion regarding policy and the ability to confront very specific issues that are increasingly relevant.
Despite the loss during election season, Michigan College Democrats stated their objective is not abandoned, but rather that their agenda has been altered to promote and recognize progressive ideals. According to LSA junior Colin Kelly, president of College Democrats, they plan to mobilize students through transparency, Democratic values and awareness within the campus community.
“Though we don’t have a central goal like we did last semester, we now have an opportunity — and obligation — to continue fighting for and advocating our progressive values that we know are the right choices for our campus, state and nation,” Kelly said.
Nursing freshman Kristen Reynolds, a member of College Democrats at the University, agrees that mobilization is vital to progress, especially following the impassioned atmosphere at the University in the wake of Trump’s victory in November.
“I read so many Facebook posts from friends that aren’t usually politically active, but were angry with the outcomes,” Reynolds said. “I hope that College Democrats can get more people involved on campus politically and harness that passion.”
In the wake of the 2016 election, many students have shared a desire to promote togetherness by increasing cordiality between Michigan College Democrats and Republicans. LSA freshman Haya Akbik criticized both the College Democrats’ and the College Republicans’ uncompromising natures.
“I think both campus groups need to show that compromise and respectful dialogue must occur in order to create good political change,” said Akbik. “Being so stuck on being a Democrat or a Republican is harmful to our country and our relations with one another.”
Reynolds agreed with the sentiment of togetherness and stated that the prevention of a hateful atmosphere following the Trump victory supersedes loyalty to traditionally stagnant party differences.
“After the election, many College Republican clubs came out and said they don’t stand for this racism, bigotry, hate and sexism,” said Reynolds. “I would love for our groups to put our political beliefs aside to fight the hate and hate crimes that have occurred as a result of the election.”