Being a conservative on a college campus isn’t easy so you can only imagine how difficult it would be to start a conservative organization on campus. We are normally fighting an uphill battle on campuses and it can often be intimidating. Don’t let that discourage you. If you are at a private school, you may have a more difficult time because the school you are attending has no legal obligation to allow you to have a group on campus. At a public school, you have every right to start and maintain a club as long as it does not violate any rules that the school may have set and enforces across the board.
Where do I begin?
When you apply to start a club, you will likely be asked to have a list of willing participants. Normally that number is between 5 and 15 members. If your campus already has a conservative group, ask the president of that group if you could talk to their members at a meeting and ask for sign ups. Be 100% clear that you are not there to poach their members and that you would like to work together in the future. Maintaining a good relationship with other campus organizations is vital to the longevity of your own. If the president says no to allowing you to talk at a meeting, do not react by being upset. Go out and clipboard or set up a table of your own using materials from the organization you intend to start. Be aware of any tabling rules that may exist at the school because getting kicked off campus is not the best way to introduce your club to the administration. Helpful tip: remind people that signing up is not a commitment but rather just proof that they’re interested.
How do I fill out an application to start the club?
Once you’ve proven interest, you go through an application process which often involves having a constitution for your club. If you are working with a field director from the organization you’re starting, they will often have a sample constitution and you can normally fill in the blanks. However, some schools have their own constitution that you must follow and fill in those blanks. The school administration should alert you as to which one you need to use and they will likely request a copy or ask you to upload it to a website that other students can access.
I filled out the club application, what’s next?
After you’ve applied, there is normally a period where they will review your application. If everything is done correctly, you are most likely going to be granted approval. Some school’s say that you will be granted approval upon completion of a course. At my school, I had to go to a two hour meeting for three weeks where I would learn the process of reserving a room, the rules of bringing food on campus, hosting speakers, and where you are allowed to table. They often tell you how you can receive funding from the school. It is important that you utilize that money they offer. Using that money to bring a conservative speaker to campus is not only going to benefit your group by putting your name out on campus, but having a conservative speaker on campus is usually pretty rare. It is also important to note that when you are not using the money from the school, another school organization is. In fact, it could very well be money used to host yet another liberal speaker.
Okay, our club is approved, what’s next?
Have a meeting. Go out and table on the day of the meeting. Tabling a day before a meeting is okay, but someone is more likely to come to a meeting on the day of and it will be fresh in their minds. While you’re tabling, keep your message positive. Don’t be screaming about how awful the other side is but rather, spend that time explaining why you believe in the things you do and why it benefits people our age. It is important to also spend your time tabling wisely. Don’t waste your time arguing with someone you will never agree and talk to those who seem curious. One great way to get college students to come to your meetings is to have food whether it be snacks, candy, or pizza. Incentivize people to come as well by holding a raffle or if you’re hosting a political speaker, see if any political science professors will offer extra credit for people who attend.
You can do this. Network at conferences to meet people who have gone through this. Contact someone you know for advice. Always reach out to the organization because then they know to send you resources and give you the support system you need.
As a recent college grad, I want to extend a personal thank you to all of the young conservative activists on college campuses. I was in a your shoes just a few short years ago, starting a political club on campus and I was nervous to receive backlash, but starting that club was the best decision I made during school. Keep up the hard work and fighting the good fight.