Allison Berger (president), Rachel Glenn (vice-president), and Jessica Li (founding member) give us an inside look at NeW Princeton!
What challenges has your chapter faced on campus? What have you done to overcome them?
Allison: One challenge has been that many students on campus believe that a “conservative woman” is an inherent contradiction. This has been a stereotype we have been eager to shatter. One way we have done so is by writing Letters to the Editor of our school newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. Last May, an opinion columnist wrote a piece in which she called conservatism “racist and sexist.” In response, our Board jointly wrote a piece titled “A NeW Take on Women and Conservatism,” which was widely read and positively received on our campus, even by students who do not identify as conservative but appreciated hearing a different perspective. We also coauthored a piece with College Republicans in response to a petition progressive campus groups had organized. By being active and visible participants in campus discourse, we have shown our classmates that conservative women exist at Princeton and that we’re proud and vocal to be!
Rachel: Another challenge is that most students at our school chose a few organizations to become active in during their freshmen and sophomore years and then do not join new groups as upperclassmen. Since we founded our chapter last May with mostly upperclassmen members, we have had to look beyond our direct networks to recruit new members. We have been excited to meet freshmen this year through recruitment fairs and hope that we can build a strong base for NeW so that these girls can continue to grow the chapter after our founding members graduate.
What was the last event your chapter hosted?
Allison: We have been celebrating many birthdays recently! Our last two events were socials for Margaret Thatcher’s birthday and before that a 13th Anniversary Party for NeW.
Rachel: These events have been an excellent and fun way to bring women together and strengthen the community around us, especially the community for conservative women. We have had great opportunities to bond and meet people that we wouldn’t have otherwise! Some events that I am looking forward to are inviting conservative women to speak at Princeton. I think having women talk about how they have taken their conservative values into the workforce and their everyday lives will be educational and inspiring for all of our members!
How is your chapter getting involved in the conSERVative challenge?
Allison: We are going to host a clothing drive for Dress for Success, which helps women achieve economic independence by providing them with gently used business clothes, interview tips, and training. We are also looking into the possibility of making an afternoon trip to the volunteer at the Dress for Success location that is near our campus in Mercer County, New Jersey.
Rachel: Being able to participate in Dress for Success is really exciting for our chapter because having a nonpartisan effort that will reach across campus is a great way to get our name out there and maximize the good we can accomplish in our local community. It is also a great way to continue to help women, regardless of their political background, to continue building great relationships between women of all beliefs.
What does it mean to you to be a conservative?
Allison: At its core, conservatism to me means believing in government having a limited role (specifically limited to its Constitutionally proscribed roles like providing for the common defense) such that individuals can thrive free of government interference. Freedom and liberty are essential for individuals and more broadly for the United States to prosper and grow.
Rachel: To me, being a conservative means making decisions and choices that are right for me and my family, which are consistent with my values and believes. Conservatism means that I think the Constitution should be strictly interpreted and the government should be as minimal as possible. Policy wise, I believe in lower taxes, smaller government, and strong military, but most importantly I firmly believe in traditional values (like traditional marriage) and in the sanctity of all life which must be protected, beginning from conception.
What book is your chapter reading this semester? Why did you choose it?
Allison: Since this is our first full semester as a chapter, we decided to read articles instead of a book. We have read articles by Karin, from the Independent Women’s Forum, and more, focusing on timely and relevant topics. We are planning to read a full book next semester!
Rachel: We are thinking of reading Assault and Flattery by Katie Pavlich. Katie is a successful and well-known conservative woman, and her book covers a lot of important ground, making it a great first book for our chapter.
What kind of impact has the chapter had on your campus?
Allison: As I mentioned above, one of our primary impacts has been not just participating in campus discourse, but also expanding it to include new voices and perspectives that many students may not have heard before. One of my friends told me that in a Gender Studies seminar he took last semester, a girl mentioned NeW and the class discussed our “NeW Take on Conservatism” piece from the school newspaper. It could very well be possible that conservative female voices would not have been acknowledged in the course otherwise!
Rachel: We also hope we have benefited the individual girls who have joined NeW. For example, when we first founded the group, someone wrote on our sign-up form: “hyped to hear some voices that resonate with my own POV!” I think NeW on our campus provides a great opportunity for talking (and sometimes venting!) about politics or issues related to conservative women, but also for allowing right-of-center women on our campus to think about what their personal beliefs are and solidify why they hold the beliefs they do.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a chapter?
Allison: I would advise taking full advantage of NeW’s network. Reach out to girls at other schools’ chapters to get their best tips and tricks for NeW. Work closely with the wonderful women who work for NeW national – Karin, Vanessa, and the whole team have plentiful resources to support you and help make your chapter successful!
Rachel: I think holding public, on-campus events that potentially partner with other right-of-center campus groups is a great way to spread the word about a NeW chapter you are starting and get people interested. Having other groups on campus advocate for you is a great way to spark the conversation about your chapter and show women who are interested in joining that there is support for conservative women, even if it doesn’t feel like it all the time.
What does NeW mean to you?
Allison: NeW is a positive community of empowering women (both on campus at Princeton and beyond through NeW’s national collegiate and alumni network) who support each other, learn and grow together, and promote conservative ideals!
Rachel: To me, NeW is a group of women who are interested in opening up a dialogue from a right-of-center point of view, sharing their beliefs with each other, and being great role models of “what a conservative looks like”!
Jessica: As an low-income immigrant woman in Princeton, I had found myself searching for a closely-knit group of friends that would be truly inclusive and respectful of my identity and opinions. What surprised me was how open and welcoming NeW was, and I have since fostered some of my closest friendships with the other women in the organization since our chapter started earlier this year. It is immensely gratifying to be able to discuss anything from topics in foreign and economic policies to empowering other women with this group.