For many conservative students—and particularly for conservative freshmen taking their first steps onto campus—philosophical discussion and political activity in the world of higher education can seem stifling. There is an undeniable predominance of liberalism, both in the classroom and in casual dialogue, which often spills over into students’ extracurricular life. Many of the largest and most vocal student groups at any given university, for example, identify firmly with the liberal camp. Unfortunately, this can discourage many talented conservative students from engaging with their peers in honest debate.
Students at Princeton, however, are turning that narrative on its head. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated Princetonians, the conservative message is alive and well at our esteemed University. And although this conservative message is spread in a number of ways—scholarly articles, classroom debate, and other public fora—the most effective medium has without a doubt been the establishment and growth of a number of different conservative student groups.
Here, we give you a closer look at the most successful of these groups; their backgrounds, their goals, and their plans for the near future. Their work and their records of success are admirable, and they have skillfully carved out a space for conservative students to publicly and legitimately articulate and defend their beliefs. If you are interested in supporting the conservative cause, we highly encourage you to join up with any or all of these groups.
Princeton College Republicans
The Princeton College Republicans—as part of the largest, oldest, and most active youth political organization in the country—is the official representative of the Republican Party at Princeton University. In that role, we promote Republican principles, policies, and candidates by engaging the student body and the broader University community in serious political debate.
Because of our members’ experience with campaign tactics, policy crafting, and conservative advocacy, we are often contacted by student-run and local news organizations. This gives our members a unique opportunity to contribute to political discourse both on and off campus and thereby make a real difference in electoral and policy outcomes.
In recent semesters, we have organized weekly discussion dinners, where our members can discuss recent political developments; lecture events with policy experts, campaign managers, elected officials, and authors; campaign events for regional elections; and trips to the amazing Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In the coming year, we’ll continue with all of these programs, and we’ll also be travelling across New Jersey and surrounding states to support Republican candidates in competitive elections.
If you’d like to get involved with the Princeton College Republicans, or stay updated on our events, contact CR President Paul Draper ‘18 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Cliosophic Party
The American Cliosophic Party has its roots in the Cliosophic Society, founded by Aaron Burr some 250 years ago. Today, it is a forum for debate and discussion, committed to providing an intelligent, sustained, and respectful defense of conservative values at Princeton.
Over the next year, Clios will represent the conservative perspective at monthly Whig-Clio debates, and participate in intra-Clio debates between different sides of the conservative movement. Last semester, Clios argued for keeping Woodrow Wilson’s name on University institutions and against legalizing marijuana. In addition, Clios participated in an intra-Clio debate on whether conservatives should support Donald Trump, a matter of continuing importance.
To stay abreast of future debates, discussion dinners, and visiting speakers, contact Clio Chair Theodore Furchtgott ‘18 or sign up to the list serve, email@example.com.
The Anscombe Society
“Are you interested in sexual ethics?” Or, if you were unfortunate enough at the activities fair to hear from one particularly impudent Anscomber, “Are you chaste?” Princeton and many other colleges are saturated with a hookup culture that assumes sex is free of commitment and only subjectively important; sex is what you make it, dating and exclusivity seem too much work and chastity is for losers, not to speak of vows of celibacy. The Anscombe Society is, like Socrates, a gadfly that bites the campus out of its hypersexual libertine stupor and encourages discussion on the purpose of sex and the beauty of all relationships. The club is named after the British analytic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, a strong voice for virtue ethics, who taught moral philosophy at Cambridge. Like Elizabeth Anscombe, the club is bold to speak for truth and does so through public lectures, debates, articles, and postering, in addition to weekly discussion meetings. Past events include the controversial and widely-attended Gay Marriage Debate in 2014; our 10th Anniversary featuring eminent philosophers John Haldane, Roger Scruton, and Candace Vogler; “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk,” a lecture from relationship counselor Dr. John Van Epp; Porn and Sex Trafficking Week; and our annual Valentine’s Day postering campaign.
Princeton’s Anscombe Society is the first of its kind, and we also host the Love and Fidelity Network conference every year, which allows students and friends from Anscombe-affiliated clubs around the country to benefit from speakers of a range of disciplines who speak on the topic of traditional sexual ethics. Sexuality, Integrity, and the University 2016 will occur from October 28-29 and is free for Princetonians, so feel free to ask for details and sign up! We also hope to see you at one of our weekly meetings, and we welcome those from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.
Contact President Thomas Clark ‘18 at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Princeton Pro-Life (often simply referred to as PPL) is the one student organization at Princeton uniquely devoted to promoting a culture of life by standing against abortion, euthanasia, and physician assisted suicide. Its mission is both to equip its members with the resources to make the case for life and to expose the wider campus community to the best arguments with conviction and compassion. In order to do this, PPL hosts numerous campus events throughout the year.
For example, in October PPL will host “Respect Life Month” filled with speaking events with such topics as “pro-life feminism” and “race and abortion” as well as movie screenings, tabling in Frist, and more casual social events to spread the pro-life message. In January, PPL will take its annual trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Moreover, each semester PPL co-hosts a “Pro-Life, Pro-Family Reception” so that students can meet Princeton’s pro-life faculty. With its myriad campus events throughout the year, Princeton Pro-Life has something to offer for those with as wide of interests as philosophy, public policy, natural sciences, and activism.
Reach out to President Elly Brown ‘18 at email@example.com to get involved.
What This Means for the Individual Conservative
The Princeton College Republicans, American Cliosophic Party, Anscombe Society, and Princeton Pro-Life have reestablished conservatism as a force on par with more liberal and progressive ideologies—at least in terms of intellectual heft if not in terms of influence on the University administration—at Princeton.
This heft, and the respectability that accompanies it, have allowed conservative students to thrive within the Princeton community. Unlike their peers at most secular universities, where conservative students are often made to feel academically inadequate, conservative Princetonians are able to espouse their belief system with the expectation that they will be given a fair hearing and treated as a legitimate participant in the public debate. Of course, that’s not true for every individual encounter—there are a few bad apples in every bunch—but it’s a fair characterization of the Princeton experience. Even those who do not self-identify as conservative recognize and appreciate this free discourse. Eric Fung ‘18 relates his experience, “Although I would hardly consider myself a conservative… I think one of Princeton’s best attributes is its approach to pertinent societal issues. At Princeton, there is no one predominating viewpoint; in other words, discussion is encouraged and facilitated…”
Such a free exchange of ideas is found within Princeton’s conservative community as well. Part of the conservative movement’s strength at Princeton is its willingness to embrace critical reflection and open debate. Allowing civil disagreement amongst members helps conservative groups at Princeton achieve a number of worthwhile goals. First, they can attract and more fully embrace a wider section of the student body. Second, they can refine their core arguments so that they are better able to defend those arguments against liberal scrutiny. Third, they can better achieve the high academic ideal of ascertaining truth.
These benefits transfer over to the individual student experience as well, instilling a well-placed sense of pride. “The center-right movement encourages disagreement and debate,” says Owen Smitherman ‘18. “Unlike the apathetic majority, Princeton’s conservatives constantly strive to ascertain the truth in all places, regardless of convenience. It is this search for the truth that makes me proud to be a conservative on campus.” Furthermore, it does much to buck the stereotype of the antiquated conservative. John Zarrilli ‘18 describes conservatism’s refreshing approach to important questions, “Throughout my experience as a College Republican, I’ve learned that conservatism is not dead, but rather alive and flourishing. The members of the Princeton College Republicans approach their political positions with careful thought and nuance. Here at Princeton, conservative thinking is dynamic and diverse with a number of members holding different opinions…”
Finally—and perhaps most importantly for young people stepping into an unfamiliar environment—conservative organizations at Princeton create a strong sense of community among right-leaning undergraduates. Coming together with those who share certain core convictions provides a firm philosophical foundation and a sense of permanence, both of which are necessary if a student is to successfully navigate the oft-confusing world of post-secondary education. And it helps on a practical level as well. Activism, debate, and rigorous discussion are all far easier and far more enjoyable when done alongside friends.
“It is through some of these groups that many members make their closest friends,” says Jack Whelan ‘19. “Not because they agree on everything, or are enclosed in a conservative echo chamber of their own making, but because they share certain common principles that allow them to disagree while still respecting each other.” For some students, it is actually an improvement over their high school years. “I was the only conservative in my high school,” Sofia Gallo ‘17 reports, “so I was pretty surprised that there were quite a few conservatives at Princeton. I had never had friends with my beliefs, and it was comforting to have a supportive community here.” Simply put, commonly-held principles foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual support.
Coordination through active and respected conservative groups. Legitimacy and respect in campus dialogue. Free exchange of ideas within the campus conservative bloc. A real sense of community amongst campus conservatives. All of these are accomplishments of the conservative movement at Princeton. And all are ready for your use and benefit. So do not be afraid to speak your mind as a conservative at Princeton. You’ll be better for it, and so will those around you.
Paul Draper is a junior studying History, and he is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.