As part of its Chapter Spotlight, NeW caught up with President Laura Whelan and Vice President Isabella Tagliaferri of NeW at the University of Pennsylvania (NeW at Penn). Learn about the great work and events NeW at Penn is doing!
What does it mean to you to be a conservative?
Laura: To me, being a conservative means being supportive of free markets and being proudly pro-life. On campus, it means not being diminished by a majority opinion and thinking through things clearly and logically. To me, it does not mean a party. It means a set of ideals and concepts whose implementation would make the United States a better place.
Isabella: Being a conservative has a somewhat different meaning to me than what others may think. Being a conservation at Penn for me means something completely different to what it means elsewhere. It means not agreeing with what everyone else thinks, regardless of which political party you support. Being conservative still means standing up for women’s rights and wanting equality, and to me, those are my main goals.
What kind of impact has your chapter had on your campus?
Laura: NeW at Penn is currently making waves on campus. The women who come to our meetings are embracing topics that are otherwise hushed on campus, and on which they had previously felt silenced. In addition, we brought an a very exciting speaker and are bringing another to campus this semester. The first, Ariana Woodson, came to speak about reclaiming civil liberties on college campuses, the race grievance industry, and how social movements have gone awry since her grandfather fought for civil rights in the NAACP. The second, Amy Wax, a Penn Law professor, is coming to speak about the explosive outcry that Penn launched at her in response to her controversial article on the clash of cultures and the loss of family values in the United States, as well as the Wall Street Journal’s denunciation of Penn’s response to her.
Isabella: I entirely agree with Laura. I think that women really appreciate the space we provide for them to discuss topics that they may not have a chance to speak up about elsewhere on campus.
What book is your chapter reading this semester? Why did you choose it?
Laura: This semester, our chapter is reading a series of articles that pertain to ongoing events in Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. This includes articles on the march against rape culture that just occurred, as well as free speech limitations on campus, a topic which was further discussed when Ariana Woodson came to speak with us. Most notably, Amy Wax will be coming to speak with us after we read further about the massive controversy that she stirred on campus and has gone national.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a chapter?
Laura: Starting NeW at Penn is one of the best things I’ve done on campus and I can’t recommend it enough. My advice is to smart small, stay connected to the literature you read because it will make it so much harder for people to critique you, and do not be afraid of the backlash that might come your way. If your school is at all similar to ours, there is a huge gap on campuses for discussion on things that go beyond a standard and reinforced view. Embrace that gap and create the space for that discussion. It is needed.
Isabella: As someone who was part of the team that just recently started a chapter, I would say that you should just go for it because this space for discussion is extremely needed on university campuses. If anyone reacts negatively to you, it is important to recognize where they are coming from and channel the negativity into exactly why you started the chapter–to allow these conversations to happen.
What does NeW mean to you?
Laura: NeW at Penn is a space carved out of a largely opinion-intolerant campus for literature-based discussion that expands past standard and typically accepted points of view. It is a way to broaden a type of tunnel vision. We embrace what many find uncomfortable, and we push ourselves to approach things from a more removed perspective. We aim to listen to more than is fed to us. To me, NeW means the opening of an intellectual landscape.
Isabella: NeW at Penn to me is an open space where women can gather to discuss more controversial topics in a safe environment. At Penn, we aim to provide women with this comfortable space through biweekly meetings and events, with the hope that women can feel safer discussing these issues in a more open environment.