Rutgers University

Column: At Rutgers, Will the Right Stand Up for What is Right?

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The Rutgers Conservative Union tables outside Brower Commons on College Avenue. Credits: Dylan Marek
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Editor's note: This is a column by Amy Barenboim, a Rutgers University student who covers and provides commentary on local issues.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The United States has always championed the right to free speech and, subsequently, the freedom for opinions to be measured and scrutinized against one another. This multiplicity of viewpoints prevents the tyranny of one ideology over another, and hopefully leads to a productive meeting of those ideas. Keeping with that tradition leads to an essential question regarding the existence of the Rutgers Conservative Union: What exactly are the club’s principles and values?

This question is important not only for the current existential state of the club, but for how it will potentially benefit or harm Rutgers as an intellectual and moral institution.

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As students of Rutgers, Conservative Union members must contribute to the current dialogue at the university—and across the nation. What is the state of racism in a nation that has—until recently—seen itself as post-race? What is the state of immigration when many have forgotten their own immigrant routes? How can we move toward a more just and equal society when people are against it, seemingly for little reason?

There are many questions here, most of them, if not all, rhetorical. That is the point.

Members of the Conservative Union and Rutgers officials have championed the club for its ability to provide a different viewpoint from a predominantly liberal student body. But the Rutgers Conservative Union does not seem to have a different viewpoint, nor any viewpoint at all.

Creating fliers defaming famous liberal figures as a “tactic” does not say anything about the club’s actual values. What is it about Che Guevara that offends the club? Why is the club going to potentially associate Adolph Hitler with liberals?

These questions are not asked to belittle anyone, but because the Rutgers community is genuinely curious and concerned.

Which leads to the fliers the club posted in February, which sparked a major controversy on campus.

The Rutgers Conservative Union has admitted that the fliers were based off one from the white supremacy group American Vanguard, but merely by coincidence. And the Union has continually denied any association, ideological or otherwise, with American Vanguard. 

It seems the most likely connection was somewhere in between, or a combination of the two. Perhaps the lack of a central mission and principles led the club toward a lack of originality. In other words, the club may have copied the design and phrase “Take Your Country Back!” because the club did not have its own message to impassionately send out to the Rutgers community. However, this does not let the Rutgers Conservative Union off the hook.

Members of the club still rallied around problematic views. As one member said, in a story reported by TAPinto New Brunswick’s Jack Murtha, “multiculturalism is going to collapse one way or another, so that people are allowed to retain their identity and ostensibly stand up for the west.” A crack has been opened enough for groups like American Vanguard to slither in and contact the group on Facebook under pseudonyms like Mike Enoch.

Whether or not the members do, in fact, hold views aligned with white supremacy, they have nonetheless decided to associate with a white supremacy group, with seemingly little to no remorse. And that is the most frightening part of the Rutgers Conservative Union. If these students truly are conservatives that think “racism is never okay” then they would not associate with the message of American Vanguard, nor its people. They would find it abhorrent, not just in name, but in their actions.

One speaker said at the June 15 Middlesex County Freeholders meeting, in regard to undocumented immigrants, “It is not us versus them. We are entangled.”

It is the responsibility of the Conservative Union, as the new and open-minded institution it claims to be, to resist bigotry and not give in to the hatred spewed by groups such as American Vanguard.

Amy Barenboim, a New Jersey native, is an English major at Rutgers University. She is also interested in theater and philosophy. On most days you can find her reading a book under a tree. She writes a regular column for TAPinto New Brunswick.

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