Sophomore Allison Payne started an Emerson chapter of College Republicans, a national group, at the beginning of the spring 2019 semester to give representation to conservative students on campus.
Two conservative organizations, Emerson College Republicans and Turning Point USA, debuted on campus during the 2018-2019 academic year. Sophomore Camilo Vilaplana created an Emerson chapter of Turning Point USA in fall 2018.
Payne said the Emerson College Republicans’ agenda focuses on creating a space for people with conservative views on campus, and she hopes to get the club involved in local government at the Massachusetts State House. Seven members attended the first meeting on Feb. 5.
“Honestly, it’s hard to be a Republican at Emerson College,” Payne said.
Payne said she wants to encourage conservative students to use their voice to make change. However, the group does not plan to engage in many events on campus, because Payne said she understands that Emerson is a liberal-leaning school.
“I personally pull back from sharing my political views in class,” Payne said. “I don’t want to have any backlash from people in that setting because that creates a hostile environment for me.”
Payne said she received both resistance and support when she began posting about creating a College Republicans chapter on Facebook.
“I was actually very shocked at how quickly word got around,” Payne said. “People I’d never seen before recognized me as the girl that started the Republican club on campus.”
Student Government Association Class of 2022 Senator Brady Baca said he believes the majority of his freshman constituency holds a negative opinion of Republican student organizations.
“There are a lot of my constituents who strongly disapprove of these groups, do not like their presence on campus, and do not want to see the values that they’ve come to know and appreciate from Emerson—values of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance of groups who are otherwise marginalized from American society—be threatened,” he said.
Baca said he recalled seeing students tear down Turning Point USA advertisements in the Walker Building in past months. Payne said she thinks students should have a platform to share their views.
“In any situation, it’s important to have an environment where people can share their views, but I just don’t think that’s how Emerson is right now,” Payne said.
Payne created the group in fall 2018 after completing an internship with former United States Senate candidate Karin Housley, a Republican, in Minnesota last summer. She said she learned about the University of Minnesota College Republicans and decided to start a chapter at Emerson.
“I probably decided in like five seconds that I was going to do it and just ran with it,” Payne said.
Professor Tylor Orme teaches a class on conservative economic thought called The Right Stuff: Origins of Conservative Thought. Orme teaches four other economics classes at the college and said he doesn’t necessarily see a divide between Democrats and Republicans in his classes
He said he recognizes that the college’s location in Boston, Massachusetts, a liberal city in a relatively blue state, offers a demographic bias, meaning the majority of the student population is likely to have liberal views.
“The college is predominantly Democrat or at least liberal-minded, but I don’t see, in many cases, an intentional ideological bias,” Orme said in an interview. “I think that there are a lot of professors that mean well and try to approach things from a neutral angle, but it’s impossible to teach in a way that’s completely unbiased.”
Orme said it’s important to have a Republican club on campus and foster conversation between Democratic and Republican students.
“I think it’s really important to be able to recognize that we can interact with each other in a productive way,” Orme said.
Payne said she planned the next club meeting for Feb. 13 at 8 p.m.
Correction, Feb. 12: In a previous version of this article, Student Government Association Class of 2022 Senator Brady Baca was incorrectly quoted. In his quotes, Baca was referring to Turning Point USA, not the Emerson College Republicans. The article has since been updated to reflect his thoughts on the College Republicans.