As part of our Chapter Spotlight, Vanessa Rivera caught up with ladies from the NeW chapter at the State University of New York at New Paltz: Gabbie Albrecht, Michaela Larsson, Clare Clifford.
What does it mean to you to be a conservative?
Gabbie: “To be a conservative means to promote the moral ideas that started this country. At 228 years old, our country’s Constitution stands tall in being the oldest in the world. Being conservative is taking care to preserve this document that our forefathers gave so much for. In our country we protect its citizens and give them freedoms that others only desire to have. To be conservative is to listen to new ideas and be challenged by them in a way that lines up with these long kept principles of America. Being conservative is promoting ingenuity in all aspects of life such as entrepreneurship. Lastly, to be conservative is to be loyal to this country. I am privileged to have been born in America. From a young age, I was taught to love and respect my country. My prayer is that I would do that to my dying day.”
Michaela: “Being a conservative comes in many shapes, sizes, colours, etc. To me conservative means that as an individual you have certain values, views and attitudes that connect with the traditional society (relating to politics and/or religion).”
Clare: “As a conservative, I believe the meaning behind the term means to uphold a moral standard that is free from any particular religion, given that this country is not a theocracy, yet is somewhat grounded (with modifications) in what our forefathers wanted out of the creation of America. Being conservative means to fight for the best version of a capitalistic society with regulations that will protect its people but not overstep the limits of the government. Conservatism stands for a smaller government, which means more freedom for its citizens, and more opportunities for all to prosper through merit and hard-work. I find that conservatives tend to have rational political decisions by recognizing the necessary budgeting that comes along with enacting new policies and expanding government. I think as a conservative we address more often and offer better ideas to tackle important issues that are not as “mainstream” such as addressing our debt crisis or our foreign affairs with countries that consistently have disrespected the U.S. Being a conservative to me means to stand up for this amazing country and defend for liberty and human rights for all.”
What kind of impact has your chapter had on your campus?
Gabbie: “Speaking from personal experience, I can say that having NeW on our campus has opened up doors for women (and men) to feel comfortable to speak against the campus’ mainstream ideas. Knowing that there are others who feel the same way you do makes living on/going to a liberal school better!”
Michaela: “The NeW Chapter on SUNY New Paltz is still a young club on campus. We have a rising number of members each semester. As the chapter gets larger it will have an impact on campus. It’s a good space for those who are conservative women to come and share their thoughts without feeling as if they are being judged.”
Clare: “From our roots that started with just a couple of girls and a few male graduates interested in being involved to where we are now; we have certainly expanded our presence on campus. Although we are still quite small, every semester we have found more girls interested to learn about our chapter and every semester we are gaining new members! We have opened the floor to more conservative ideas as guest speakers join us on campus to discuss highly controversial issues. Before these guest speakers would find themselves in a room full of students who would either agree or not speak up, but now more than ever conservatives across campus have been not afraid to speak out. I truly believe that this was because of NeW on campus because whenever we table or attend lectures with like-minded conservative, we speak out and question the status-quo. At NeW we encourage students to challenge themselves and really understand why they believe in what they believe. We also encourage them to learn about the opposing view, to build strong views and prepare to debate. We challenge the administration to hear our views and allow them to be more present on campus by having an ongoing relationship with the college’s president and faculty. All we ask is our voices to be heard, and not shut down viewpoints that can be radically different from yours.”
What book is your chapter reading this semester? Why did you choose it?
Gabbie: “We are focusing on articles that create a discussion on current events (i.e. sexual harassment cases that have been seen in numerous reports in the workforce). These discussions have opened the floor to hearing what others think about things we hear and see in the news. We can be challenged by everyone’s thoughts and opinions because of the diversity of opinions.”
Michaela: “We have yet to choose a reading to do in the Spring Semester. In the fall semester (Fall 2017) we as a group read and discussed the current sexual harassment allegations and the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace. We discussed instances of if this occurred to one of us, what to do and how we would address this.”
Clare: “This semester we focused on multiple articles surrounding the issues of sexual harassment and sex trafficking in America. With many allegations arising in and out of Hollywood we discussed how to handle and avoid sexual harassment in the workforce, and discussed the ongoing perspective some men have on women. As President, I chose this topic because I felt as we all go into our first jobs after college this is should not be an issue any woman faces in the country, and yet we find that everyday there are more and more cases of sexual harassment/assault at the workplace. Many women struggle for years to address a problem they might have had with a co-worker or boss. I wanted the women at NeW to not only know that we are more than looks with minds as good as gold, but also learn how to quickly address and defend yourself. It is never okay, and as women we must stand up for what is morally right.”
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a chapter?
Gabbie: “It will be hard. No doubt about it. Having a different mindset from the crowd is not easy and is not popular. Not starting one would probably be easy, but then you would miss out on encouraging others to ask themselves what they believe and to challenge the current stream of politics. Whatever challenges come when starting, look past them. Know that the amazing network of women at NeW, who have given a lot to see something of this caliber on college campuses, have also gone through what you will go through. Tap into their resources and go for it!”
Michaela: “Look into the NeW, do your research. Research the policies, rules, regulation about the campus’ student activities and how to create a club on your campus. Gather women to become interested and have the same values to be able to create a club on campus. Get in contact with NeW and start a conversation with the women who are apart of it.”
Clare: “I founded NeW at SUNY New Paltz right when the 2016 presidential election was coming to a close. The amount of push back I saw against conservatives on campus made it such a challenge to find conservatives who wanted to talk about politics. From safe spaces with therapists to talk about the “country’s crisis” to a half-mass flag to mourn the country’s future; I felt alone and I felt hopeless for conservatives in the area even after President Trump was elected. Even with all the opposition, I thought that there was such a need to hear my voice; I knew I was not a stand alone opinion. I needed to know that students on my campus could learn about conservatism from someone other than a liberal professor. I was so saddened by how people looked at someone with different political views with such hatred and ignorance, that I wanted to change the political atmosphere. I think if you want to start a chapter, just do it. There are so many women willing to give advice and talk to you over the phone or meet up, and there is a long list of other organizations that also support and help NeW Chapters. I encourage you to start a chapter because college campuses need us! They need our voices and they REALLY need female voices to break stereotypes and bring our beliefs to the surface! Don’t shy away from this challenge, because this is an amazing organization with a ton of support.”
What does NeW means to you?
Gabbie: “NeW means that on my campus, we can have conversations about diverse politics. Despite being the vast minority, I know that I can still have a voice in what I think and believe. NeW opens up that door and gives a platform to do so. It also gives women who value and promote women’s rights the opportunity to speak, but with a different view on feminism.”
Michaela: “Network of Enlightened Women is a network of women who are conservative and stand up for their beliefs. Through being apart of this club on SUNY New Paltz campus it has opened up my perspective with the different views our chapter holds even among conservatives.”
Clare: “Network of enlightened Women brings women from all sides of the country together to educate them, to empower them, and to stand up for their beliefs. The connections made through NeW events are lifelong friendships and are rooted with our similarities in values. NeW has helped me grow as a woman and become a better leader . I am so proud to be apart of this conservative movement and I’m happy that there is an organization to bring female leaders together to break barriers and stereotypes.”