Saturday, June 09, 2012

A Brief History of the WMU College Republicans

A Brief History of the WMU College Republicans

The WMU College Republicans were formed far back in the dark and distant past (maybe sometime in the ‘90s). Few records of these early days have survived to the present.

Chairman: Andy Phelps

Chairman: Amy Powell

A relatively small group of about ten members was quite active on campus. The group heavily canvassed the campus for Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus, who narrowly lost to democrat Jennifer Granholm. “Vote for Dick” could frequently be seen scrawled in chalk across campus.

Controversy erupted when business professor Norman Hawker, an official in the local democrat party, was exposed offering extra credit to volunteer for a political campaign and only listing contact information for one campaign. That just happened to be the state senate campaign of Ed LaForge, whose treasurer was Hawker’s wife. Chairman Amy Powell exposed this in a letter to the editor, and Hawker later became a member of the WMU Faculty Hall of Shame.

The group hosted a speech by civil rights activist and former University of California Board of Regents member Ward Connerly. He gave a short speech criticizing the use of racial preferences and then answered many audience questions. One was from a member of BAMN, a front for the Revolutionary Workers League, a communist splinter group.

The group was invited to participate in a debate on affirmative action. The debate turned into a farce, with several leftist groups and a highly biased moderator all pitted against the College Republicans. The CRs eventually walked out.

The group was active in the Western Student Association (WSA), whose president was conservative Johnny Knowles. The group sponsored a resolution to support the troops, which was narrowly passed. The group also sponsored a resolution critical of communist China, which failed to pass the WSA.

Some members of the group participated in a “support the troops” near the start of the Iraq War sponsored by the conservative student group Students for America.

Chairman: Matt Hall

The WMUGOP expanded dramatically under the leadership of new Chairman Matt Hall.

The group planned to hold a vigil to commemorate the second anniversary of 9/11. When the WMUGOP learned that a black fraternity was planning a similar event, the groups agreed to combine the events and hold a joint vigil.

The group hosted a bevy of speakers over the course of the academic year. Reginald Jones spoke about his views as a black conservative.

Dr. Alan Cors, a representative of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), spoke about how campus speech codes violate the First Amendment. About 200 people attended the event.

Political activist Bay Buchanan spoke about the link between abortion and breast cancer. The event, which was co-sponsored by Students for Life, was attended by about 200 people. The speech riled feminists in the audience.

The highlight of the year was a speech by author Dinesh D’Souza. His topic was his recent book, What’s So Great About America. He spoke to a crowd of 350, which packed the lecture hall, filled the aisles, and spilled out into the hallway.

The College Republicans were one of four campus groups to participate in a Black History Quiz Bowl, and the group won by a large margin. The group also revised its constitution, moving from five to six officers.

Chairman: Matt Hall

Matt Hall continued as Chairman for a second year, leading the College Republicans to even greater achievements. Over the summer, members of the group campaigned for Jerry VanderRoest for state representative, who narrowly lost the Republican primary.

The group hosted lively weekly meeting every Wednesday in the Brown and Gold Room of the Bernhard Center. The group watched a presidential debate and the state of the union address. It saw visits from local political figures State Representative Jack Hoogendyk and Kalamazoo City Commissioner Mary Balkema and debated issues including immigration, the Iraq War, and health care.

The group campaigned hard for Republican candidates during election season, focusing its efforts on supporting President George W. Bush and State Representative Jack Hoogendyk. Members put up yard signs, distributed literature, knocked on doors, and more. They were rewarded with many victories and a celebration at The Union downtown.

In the winter semester, the group hosted a speech by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, commonly known as the “Ten Commandments Judge”. The event was advertised with flyers posted all over campus featuring the Ten Commandments. A university bureaucrat demanded that a display featuring the Ten Commandments be removed, but the group refused, and the university backed down. The event was attended by 600 people in the Bernhard Center ballroom. Moore delivered an incisive lecture on God, government, and the Constitution.

A clash with the campus left loomed when the group made plans to bring author, former presidential candidate, and immigration critic Pat Buchanan to campus. The speech coincidentally fell on Cesar Chavez Day, March 31. Chavez was an American union organizer who (unknown to most leftists) had organized minuteman style-patrols along the Mexican border and called for the government to deport illegal aliens. The group ran with the connection, advertising the event with flyers stating “Viva Buchanan…Come Celebrate Cesar Chavez Day with Pat Buchanan”. The group later declared the day to be “America First Day”.

Campus leftists flipped out over the event. Condemnations came from the Kalamazoo Gazette and a Kalamazoo city commissioner (who was voted out in the next election). Campus leftists vandalized and destroyed thousands of flyers and posters advertising the event.

Women’s studies professor Edith Fisher organized her class to tear down flyers the day of the event. When several members of the College Republicans went to investigate, Fisher impaled one of the group’s posters on a Mexican flag. She then shoved one of the members of the group when he tried to retrieve the poster. Incredibly, not only did she go unpunished, but later the university actually held a sham trial and punished two members of the College Republicans on bogus charges.

Meanwhile, Pat Buchanan spoke before a divided audience of 900 people in the Bernhard Center. While many in the audience were hostile, he managed to find common ground while addressing the Terry Schiavo case and criticizing the Iraq War, free trade, and immigration. Buchanan fielded a number of questions from the audience, but the Q&A came to an abrupt end.

A leftist from off campus who described himself as a “national socialist” attacked Buchanan by throwing salad dressing all over Buchanan. The university refused to press charges for property damage, but the attacker was nonetheless convicted of disturbing the peace. He was sentenced to ten days in jail, given probation, and ordered to pay $6,628 in restitution.

The group was active on a number of other fronts. Members volunteered at the Michigan Republican state convention in Grand Rapids. Matt Hall narrowly lost a bid for chairman of the Michigan Federation of College Republicans (MFCR) at the group’s convention held at Kalamazoo College. The group continued to be active in the WSA, and helped to elect allies of the group as President and Speaker of the Senate. The group passed a resolution in the WSA criticizing Edith Fisher’s actions. The group took pride in its small office in Faunce Hall featuring the “Reagan wall”.

Chairman: Ashley Allen

Chairman Ashley Allen led the group in a flurry of activities. The group kicked off the year with a table at Bronco Bash and moving into a larger office in Faunce. The group continued weekly meetings in the Brown and Gold Room with about 30 active members. There were visits by local political figures, debates over issues including the United Nations, unions, and Harriet Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court.

Members of the group attended the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, volunteering for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. Members also volunteered for Kalamazoo City Commissioner Mary Balkema, helping her to secure reelection in November.

The group hosted Congressman Tom Tancredo for a speech to Michigan College Republicans. Tancredo gave a masterful speech on immigration, government spending, education, and national sovereignty.

Several years earlier, WMU President Judy Bailey had created a scholarship specifically for illegal aliens. When the WMU College Republicans learned about it, the group launched a campaign to eliminate it. This culminated in a resolution before the WSA which took four weeks and two versions before finally passing 32-25. When President Bailey was fired the next summer, her successor ended the scholarship.

On November 16, the WMUGOP hosted a speech by columnist and author Michelle Malkin on campus. Following a weather-related delay, she spoke about her book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild. She also parried audience questions.

In the “Spring” semester, the group kept busy. There were debates over the minimum wage, free trade, and promoting democracy. The group launched a new website,

The group also started a blog, The Western Right:, which launched on February 12, 2006. The blog featured a dozen contributors over several years. It featured POLITICAL UPDATES, which began as a feature of the groups weekly email in late summer 2005 and continued in that format for several years. It was eventually spun off separate from the group. It has accumulated over 2000 posts on all sorts of political and cultural issues over the succeeding six years.

The group sent 27 delegates to the MFCR convention at Hillsdale College. Sergeant “The Enforcer” Tom Barrett, a member of the group, was elected co-chair of the MFCR by a lopsided margin.

The main event of the semester was a speech by author and political columnist Ann Coulter on February 22, 2006. The group received funding from WSA, GSAC, and private donations for the event. The group promoted the event with flyers headlined “Ann Coulter is Coming to WMU—Are You Offended Yet?” Thousands of flyers were torn down or defaced by campus leftists. The university administration and outside groups attempted to derail the event, but the group overcame these obstacles.

The event attracted 2500 people, filling both halves of the Bernhard Center Ballroom. Coulter gave a rousing speech, denouncing liberals and liberalism, touching on many topics. Following the speech, there was a question-and-answer session where many liberals demonstrated their ignorance. The speech was preceded by a book-signing and succeeded by a dinner with Coulter at Old Burdick’s, where she declared the WMU College Republicans to be the best College Republican group in the country!

The group actively participated in the WSA elections. The group endorsed and campaigned for Amanda Grove and Drew Hooley for WSA President and Vice-President. They won a three-way race with about half the vote. The group also was instrumental in electing Aaron Easlick as speaker of the Senate.

Chairman: Tom Barrett

Over the summer, Western’s President Judy Bailey was fired by the Board of Trustees. Her interim replacement was former President Diether Haenicke. He was a member of the Republican Party and a strong and effective leader.

Also over the summer, members of the group volunteered for state representative Jack Hoogendyk who won his primary, and later the general election. Many members also attended the state Republican convention in Novi, volunteering for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The group continued lively weekly meetings with about 30 active members. Visitors included senate candidate Mike Bouchard, Jack Hoogendyk, and Senator Tom George. Debate topics included the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), term limits, dinosaurs, global warming, space exploration, Iran, and gun rights.

The group was active in the 2006 election campaign, working for Dick DeVos, Michael Bouchard, Terri Land, Tom George, and more. The group knocked on doors, made phone calls, made and put up signs, made literature, and more. Republicans had a rough election nationally, but Tom George and Jack Hoogendyk were narrowly reelected. Members assisted with a recount in Jack’s race.

Chairman Tom Barrett also ran for a seat on the Kalamazoo County Commission in southwest Kalamazoo city. Tom ran a strong race, but despite a valiant campaign effort, the district was just too democratic to win.

The group also endorsed and campaigned for the MCRI. Members of the group wrote letters and articles to the Kalamazoo Gazette supporting the measure. The group worked with another group, Students Against Racial Preferences, on this campaign. These efforts were rewarded when the MCRI passed statewide 58-42 and countywide 52-48.

The group remained active in the WSA, with members holding the positions of President, Vice-President, Speaker, Speaker Pro-Tem, Associate Justice, Political Affairs Chairman, Campus Concerns Chairman, and Allocations Committee member. These Republicans worked with President Haenicke to deliver the most effective student government in many years. The Senate passed a resolution to increase the printing limit to 500 pages per semester, which was enacted by the administration. It also passed a resolution to extend Bernhard Center hours, which was also enacted, and worked with the administration to extend library hours. Vice-President Andrew Hooley was a member of the search committee that eventually hired Western President John Dunn.

President Haenicke finally killed Western’s illegal immigrant scholarship.

The group’s efforts were recognized when the College Republican National Committee declared the WMU College Republicans to be the Best College Republican group in America in 2006.

Controversy erupted over the WMU Faculty Hall of Shame. This document had been created some time earlier and was eventually put on the group’s website. Its purpose was to document incidents where faculty members misused their power over students for political purposes. Without even contacting the group, the College Democrats launched an error-riddled attack on this document and the group in the Western Herald. The WMUGOP responded to this attack and refused to back down in spite of threats and pressure to do so. An online poll showed that respondents favored the group’s position.

The main event of the semester was a speech by former Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 13, 2007 in Miller Auditorium. The event was attended by about 900 people and protested by leftists outside. Ashcroft spoke on the relationship between security and freedom in the War on Terrorism. The speech was followed by a question-and-answer session and dinner at Old Burdick’s.

The group supported a successful resolution in the WSA asking that Sindecuse Health Center allow advertising for Alternatives Women’s Care Center. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but was not implemented by the administration. The group supported Matt Moss for President of the WSA, but his campaign was unsuccessful.

The group unanimously passed a resolution supporting the release of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, whose sentences were later commuted by President Bush. The group also unanimously passed a resolution calling for the end of the campus gun ban.

Megan Buwalda won a contested race to be the next Chairman of the group. The group also approved rewriting its Constitution.

The group’s website was named a finalist for best RSO webpage by the university administration.

Chairman: Megan Buwalda

On the sixth anniversary of 9/11, the group held a memorial by placing 2997 flags in shape of World Trade Center in front of Bernhard Center, one for each of those killed in the attack.

The group continued its weekly meetings in the Brown and Gold room. Visitors included State Representative Jack Hoogendyk and Portage City Councilwoman Margaret O’Brien. Debates topics included trade, immigration, civil liberties, the death penalty, and health care. The group had about 20 active members.

The group campaigned for Margaret O’Brien for Portage City Council, who was reelected easily.

The major event of the semester was a speech by television journalist and author John Stossel on November 28, 2007 in Shaw Theater. He spoke to a packed auditorium of 550 people. His topics included economics , government regulations, and his personal story. The group held a Presidential straw poll won by John McCain. There was a book-signing and dinner at Old Burdick’s before the speech and question-and-answer afterwards.

The outside wall of the building containing the group’s office was vandalized with anti-capitalist slogans spray painted on it.

In the WSA, the Speaker of the Senate was convicted and had his pay docked over a constitutional violation of voting rules. The trial was presided over by Chief Justice Megan Buwalda.

In the Spring, the group continued activity with visits from Jack Hoogendyk, Charles Ybema, and Students for Concealed Carry. That group later hosted a speech by local gun rights activist Joel Fulton. The WMUGOP participated in the Michigan Republican Convention, MFCR, Conservative Political Action Conference, and Lincoln Day.

The group participated in a debate over the Iraq War with the College Democrats. Two members of each group answered a variety of questions.

The group hosted a speech by Lean Drolet, head of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He discussed taxpayers’ issues and potential recall elections.

The main event of the year was a speech by rock musician and author Ted Nugent. The event was held on March 31, 2008, “America First Day”, in Miller Auditorium. The event was preceded by a reception with photos and a book-signing. About 1800 people attended the event, where Nugent spoke on “God, Guns, and Rock and Roll”. The event concluded with questions and a guitar solo.

The group was named a “5-Star RSO” by the university.

Chairman: Megan Buwalda/David Bell

Group members spent the summer volunteering for candidates including Margaret O’Brien, Congressman Tim Walberg, Texas Township Supervisor candidate Dave Healy, and Kalamazoo Township Supervisor candidate Justin VanderArk. The group commemorated the seventh anniversary of 9/11 by again placing 2997 flags in shape of World Trade Center in front of Bernhard Center.

Meetings saw visits by Mary Balkema, State Representative candidates Jase Bolger and Larry DeShazor, county commission candidate Chris Haenicke, and AJ Keech. Debate topics included the bailout and medical marijuana.

The main focus of the group was the 2008 election. Members of the group campaigned for Volunteered for John McCain, Jack Hoogendyk, Mary Balkema, Larry DeShazor, and more by knocking on doors, making phone calls, and making and putting up signs. The group sponsored a showing of the pro-McCain film Faith of our Fathers on September, 30, 2008, attended by about 30 people. Republicans did not fare well in the election, but Mary Balkema, Larry DeShazor nonetheless won narrow victories.

After Megan Buwalda graduated, David Bell became Chairman of the group. The group was not very active in the Spring semester.

Chairman: Troy Hudson

The group began the next year with all-new leadership. The group met in the Bernhard Center Faculty Dining Room and had about 25 members. It saw visits by state senate candidates Tonya Schuitmaker, Larry DeShazor, and Lorence Wenke and state representative candidate Margaret O’Brien.

The group actively volunteered for state senate candidate Mike Nofs in a neighboring district special election. Nofs won a massive victory in the election.

A member of the group held a “liberal dunk tank” event.

Chairman: Troy Hudson

Chairman: Ashley Cole

Chairman: Chadwick Dillon/Scott Morris

The group continued to meet but was not active on campus.

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