By Karrigan Monk
Arts and Features editor
A few students walk across UNC Asheville’s campus, afraid someone might call them out for their differences. Their divergence is not necessarily visible, but it is enough to make them feel like outcasts on campus.
A dozen or so students enter Rhoades-Robinson 106 at 8 p.m. on a Monday night. As a Google image of the American flag slowly appears on the Smartboard, conversations of Chick-fil-a and college football fall silent. The image comes into focus and everyone in the room stands in unison, placing their right hand over their heart. The final words of the Pledge of Allegiance echo throughout the room and everyone sits down.
The College Republicans at UNC Asheville meeting has officially begun.
As a political minority on a predominantly liberal campus, the College Republicans have seen their share of bad experiences. Rumors of other students spitting and cursing at members as they chalk on the quad spreads throughout the group. Still, the club is growing in membership.
Maddie Crow, a senior music technology student from Huntersville, said she was looking for like-minded people when she joined the group.
“I joined the College Republicans to talk to other people with similar views and hear different perspectives within the group as well,” Crow said. “I didn’t hesitate to join the group, but I was very nervous to go to the first few meetings as people posted on Facebook that they were planning to show up just to laugh at us.”
The Sept. 25 meeting was the first since the latest controversy surrounding the club surfaced.
Mason Logan, a former UNCA student, posted a screencap on Facebook of the College Republican’s club constitution on Sept. 19 with the club’s non-discrimination policy highlighted.
“I wanna write something sarcastic but honestly I’m too floored by the fact that the College Republicans at UNC Asheville have it written in their club constitution that they’ll discriminate against people if it’s legal,” Logan wrote on his post.
A little over ten minutes after the post, Julie Hart, the president of the club, responded to Logan’s post, claiming they used the UNCA-provided wording for their non-discrimination policy, along with a screenshot from UNCA’s website.
“You understand that just because you took it from the UNCA website doesn’t make it OK, right?” Logan responded. “There’s literally no way around this and UNCA is in the wrong here, too. Discrimination of any kind is abhorrent whether it’s legal or not.”
A few days after this post was made, Crow said she and most of the members of the club fear speaking out about their views because they had received negative comments because of Logan’s post.
“Forgive me if you can, but I have little sympathy for them over this because at the end of the day they can go home and put that label away where no one will even give it a second thought. People who experience this same kind of treatment for their race, their gender identity, their national origin, their socioeconomic status, or any other marginalized identity don’t get that luxury,” Logan said. “If they want to talk about an unchangeable, visible part of their identity being discriminated against, then I’ll be more concerned.”
Another member of the College Republicans, Justin Condry, responded in a later comment to the post, arguing the wording of their constitution does not in fact allow for discrimination. Condry also wrote none of the members of the club would discriminate against anyone.
“I’m not here to argue with you. I understand your concern and I have already ensured to you that our club does not discriminate. There is nothing else for me to say or do so sorry you don’t like the wording,” Condry wrote. “I will take your concern to our members at our next meeting.”
Despite this promise, the issue was not brought up during their following general meeting.
Instead, the officers of the club explained and asked for suggestions on the events the club has planned for the rest of the year.
With a budget of $1,084, the club officers are already planning to bring speakers to campus, advertise their club and canvass for the primaries occurring next semester.
The group discussed their then-future plan to attend the Grand Ol’ Rally Sept. 30 in Raleigh. At the time of the meeting, the group was deciding if they would be spending their fall break in a small Virginia town doing door-to-door canvassing. Their gas, food and hotel room would be paid for by a national organization should they decide to go. Later this month, there is a similar opportunity in Charlotte.
College Republicans at UNC Asheville are part of Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative youth organization. Through YAF, UNCA’s club will be able to bring a conservative speaker of their choice to campus. Hart said the group simply has to fundraise as much as they can and provide transportation and a meal for the guest. YAF will make up the difference.
In order to raise as much money as they can, the College Republicans plan to attempt to team-up with another student organization for the event, despite many club members expressing concern other clubs may not want to partner with them.
While some students said they have not experienced discrimination on campus as a Republican, Crow said she has heard negative comments.
“My best experience on campus as a political minority has probably been in being able to meet new people through this group,” Crow said. “I think my worst experience has been hearing students and teachers alike make terribly demeaning comments about conservatives.”
Other members of the club, including Austin von Henner, a senior history education pre-law student from Asheville, said they have only had good experiences on campus as a Republican.
The main complaint von Henner has about the treatment of Republicans is not UNCA-specific, but a wider issue. He said there is an inherent misunderstanding of what Republicanism is and what people like him believe in.
“Conservatism and Republicanism appeals to me because I love liberty and I love seeing people happy. I want everyone to be able to freely seek after their dreams and respect each others’ individual pursuits,” von Henner said. “I am fully against all totalitarian and collectivist ideologies such as communism and fascism. I want future generations to live in a world free of tyranny and full of opportunity. Liberty is a beautiful and sacred honor.”
The meeting continued with Hart explaining the group would be volunteering in the spring with local high schools and their shooting teams. Von Henner then discussed the group outing he is planning for the club — a paintball event — which the club will pay for using their budget.
As the club officers closed with their remarks, they introduced the evening’s guest speaker, Carl Mumpower, a clinical and family psychologist who serves as chairman of the Buncombe County Republican Party.
Mumpower’s portion of the meeting began with the chairman handing out flyers and volunteering the Buncombe County GOP for event staffing.
“It’s a great time to be a conservative and a Republican. Why?” Mumpower asked. “Because the other side are the conformists and as young people it’s your mission not to conform but to look for what works and what doesn’t work. To look for something better.”
In his lecture to the group, Mumpower described liberalism as a progressive liberal socialist movement. Mumpower said this group of people are defined by a false narrative, divisiveness and a promise of something for nothing.
“I think that’s the seduction of the left today. The promise of something for nothing. I wish that existed. I’d be first in line but my experience is that it doesn’t exist,” Mumpower said. “We have to work for it. Now, we can help one another and we should help one another but that promise of something for nothing is for politicians. It’s not for people. Why do we put cows in a corral? Is it for the cow? Never for the cow.”
For several years in a row, Mumpower has been voted the Local Villain by Mountain Xpress, something Mumpower refers to as an endorsement.
This idea of Mumpower’s stems from the fact he is often disliked by both sides of the political spectrum.
“I get as much grief from my own party as that of the opposition. It’s not easy to stand on principles. Our culture tends to reward those who do what we want or say what we want to hear, not what’s true, realistic or responsible,” Mumpower said. “That’s a painful position, but it feels right.”
On one side of the card Mumpower handed out to the College Republicans was a single Spanish word: Bienvenido. The word means “welcome” and Mumpower claims this will help Spanish-speakers to join the Republican Party despite the rest of the card being in English.
Mumpower closes out the meeting by condemning the treatment of those who live in the city’s public housing projects and attacking Asheville’s legal selling of kratom, what he calls an extremely addictive substance. The chairman said these are the biggest problems in Asheville.
With a final goodbye, Mumpower told club members he admired them for their courage in existing on a liberal campus.
Logan took a different take on the character of the club members.
“Until they take a step so basic and simple as to fix discriminatory language from their constitution, I really don’t want to hear how persecuted they feel on our campus,” Logan said. “When their actions contribute to a culture of othering people different from them, they don’t get to complain when the culture comes back to bite them in the ass.”
This othering is something Mumpower also takes an issue with. He said he believes the country is too focused on political correctness and though he does not support Trump, he thinks he is courageous for calling out those who urge for political correctness.
In contrast, both Crow and von Henner said while they agree with some of Trump’s platform, they do not like the way he says things.
“I wholeheartedly admit that our president has made disgusting comments about women and I wish he would give a straightforward apology for his words and actions. There are a lot of things that I strongly dislike about Donald Trump,” Crow said. “That being said, I think it is entirely possible to be a Republican without agreeing with each and every Republican and also that it is possible to respect someone while simultaneously being critical of their actions.”
Mumpower called those who group all Republicans together victims of a leftist propaganda machine, but Crow and von Henner had a softer approach.
Crow said she wished people knew not all people are the same and the more people are judged, the less change can happen.
“We live in a divided political climate at the present time and due to that climate it can make some people feel uncomfortable being around those they disagree with,” von Henner said. “I hope everyone at UNCA is comfortable with our presence as a club because we do love everyone at UNCA.”