Texas Woman’s University has its first political organization just in time for the 2020 presidential election.
A chapter of the College Republicans is entering its first full semester at TWU this fall. Formed in May 2019 by speech language pathology graduate student Emily Roper, the chapter is modeled after the National Federation of College Republicans, which Roper said the organization will be working to gain an official charter from in the coming months. College Republicans is aimed at promoting the Republican Party agenda on college campuses and supporting candidates at a grassroots level.
Roper said she decided to start a chapter at TWU to create opportunities for student involvement in politics.
“I was just interested in it because I think it’s a really cool opportunity to engage students on our campus in civic engagement,” Roper said. “That’s super important to establish at a collegiate level.”
Roper, last year’s student regent – a nonpartisan position appointed by the Texas governor – said her time representing TWU students heightened her political awareness. Though the position often put her in the company of Republicans, Roper said it did not inform her political stance.
“I see them as separate things so there’s not much of a connection,” Roper said. “I made a lot of connections with conservatives through my time as student regent. I think the student regent process boosted my political endeavors and interest – I’m much more interested in being [politically] active than I was before.”
With free speech advocates raising concerns about discrimination against conservatives on college campuses, Roper said she hopes creating a College Republicans chapter at TWU will encourage students to not fear being vocal about their political views.
“I think there is fear of the possible social repercussions to being a Republican on campus and that can cause many to stay quiet,” Roper said. “I believe everyone has a right to free speech and should have the ability to express it on campus. So, my hope would be that our presence would make it more normalized to be a college student who is a Republican.”
Roper said she plans to encourage chapter members to take part in the civic engagement events that are already a regular part of campus life.
“I would want to encourage those students within our group to attend the Jamison lectures or TWU’s Day at the Capitol,” Roper said. “That is such an incredible opportunity to see how the Texas Legislature system works, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.”
The Denton County Republican Party is helping Roper establish the organization on campus by hosting tabling events and supporting her efforts to get the chapter off the ground.
Rob McClay, operations manager at DCRP said he feels TWU provides a unique opportunity to diversify the party’s base.
“I think this really benefits this campus because the party needs more young, dynamic and diverse women to survive,” McClay said. “That’s a big priority for Jayne [Howell] and I is bringing in diversity and bringing in women and trying to foster that kind of relationship and growth. I think this campus provides a unique way for us to do that in our hometown of Denton and say, ‘The Republican Party is not just for guys or white people, it’s for everybody.’”
Emerging statistics suggest McClay is right to be concerned about the party’s homogeneity. With 95 percent of the GOP’s congressional representatives being white and 93 percent male, there is growing concern Republicans may slip out of relevance to an increasingly diverse population.
But McClay hopes chapters like TWU’s can help bridge the gap between what he said are “outside perceptions” of Republican demographics and party leaders’ vision for the future of the GOP.
“There’s going to be men who come to these meetings too but it’s going to be predominantly women, which I think is really empowering,” McClay said. “It’s going to women’s leadership [and] women’s issues [and] women’s discussion. I think that fosters a unique opportunity.”
Students say the chapter’s presence is a good thing because it allows members to share their views with like-minded people.
“I know a lot of politically active people, but it’s just not so much a campuswide thing,” political science sophomore Katelyn Pitt said. “I think it’s important that people get active in the political sphere.”
Some feel groups like College Republicans promote self-growth by giving members a platform to discuss their beliefs without fear of ridicule.
“People get their opinions starting very young and having groups on campus – whether you personally agree with them or not – is important,” Christie Sledge, an English graduate student, said. “There’s always going to be political discord and sort-of a clashing of those, that’s the way our country was set up. It’s always going to be that way and having a place where not only you fit in, but also could possibly challenge other people’s ideas and vice versa, is a good thing.”
TWU’s chapter of College Republicans can be reached on Pioneer Engage.