By CYDNEY SALVADOR‘18
Politics Club, recently officiated by the Gates Center, began one afternoon as Evan Weller ’21, Nick Wheeler ’21, and Alyson Kearschner ’21 discussed their differing views on recent political events. After their discussion, the group brainstormed a club that would facilitate conversations on a tense and troubled campus.
The club’s executive board and adviser, Uihlein Assistant Professor of American Politics Evan Oxman, agree on one thing. “Our biggest goal is to give every student on campus a voice, regardless of opinion,” Wheeler, the club’s president, said. “There’s not a lot of forgiveness and understanding. We want to bridge gaps between students and get a view of what everyone’s thinking, not vilify them.”
Even with only half a semester under their belts, the freshmen have identified a need for respectful political discussion for students, by students. “I just got here, and I noticed the environment,” Teagan Wolf ’21, the club’s secretary, said. “There is a vast, vocal majority on the liberal side, but it’s important that students can talk about issues that matter to them without being exclusionary and disrespectful.”
With campus tensions becoming the topic of conversation among students and administration alike, the club’s executive board created an organization that gives students the opportunity to build relationships and learn about ideas held by people unlike themselves.
“It’s good to have differing views and we should be able to come to a compromise, or to say we agree to disagree,” Kearschner, the club’s treasurer, said.
Hanging out with like-minded people is an obstacle to understanding another’s viewpoint. “You don’t see the whole picture because of the people you surround yourself with in classes and on campus,” Wolf said. “More conservative students often feel they don’t have a place to voice their opinions or have respectful conversations.”
Instead of a majority of liberal or conservative opinions, club leaders expect the group to become a space for equal footing on what is considered a largely liberal campus. “We want a balance of left and right viewpoints,” Wheeler said. “There should be no one side that people feel are dominating the club.”
Though the Politics Club hasn’t officially convened yet, the club’s executive board has already sparked student interest. The group is considering hosting topical student debates, watching political events, creating discussion panels, and inviting academic departments to become involved.
“I like analyzing different orations—it’s interesting to see how the communication department analyzes speeches from various perspectives,” Wolf said. “If we can bring our professors in and have them speak on them [different speeches], that would be great.”
The club’s timeliness and open-forum style is designed to encourage students who previously never felt comfortable sharing their opinions to come forward.
“The key is not to paper over the tensions, but channel them,” Oxman said. “Disagreeing is a sign of respect, that’s how the world works. I felt strongly that this should be a place where everyone feels comfortable, but attacking personal character is inappropriate.”
Fallon Longfield ’21 said she feels a club devoted to respectful political discussion is “more important now than it ever has been.
“Everyone’s hostile and not open to others’ opinions,” she continued. “We will create a safe space for students to share their opinions. The more people that get involved, the better the discussions will be.”
To keep up-to-date with information about the club’s mission and their first meeting, visit the Lake Forest Politics Club page on Facebook.
Cydney Salvador’18 can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org