Luisa Uribe noticed something as she walked across the campus of North Idaho College: Every day she saw a campaign table promoting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, but none for Republican candidate John McCain.
So Uribe, a Republican, decided to start a Young Republicans Club – a group that hasn’t been present at the college for several years.
“I’m not anti-Obama or anything, but what I would like is for students to have both perspectives, to be presented with both political spectrums,” Uribe said.
So far, the club has signed on about 60 members, though many aren’t active in the club. Still, Uribe said, it gives their political views a voice on campus.
“The Young Republicans provides a place for them to feel support,” Uribe said. “That somebody is behind them.”
Representatives from the Young Democrats Club were unavailable for comment.
Uribe isn’t sure why the Young Democrats Club has remained active on campus for years while the Young Republicans disbanded. But she said some students may be afraid to speak out about their views.
“There are people that I would say are not very outspoken and maybe they fear that something is going to happen to them, that a professor is not going to be objective or that the students are not going to accept them or something,” Uribe said.
But Uribe said that’s not the case. Former professor Tony Stewart, who retired from NIC last year after teaching political science for 38 years, is a good example, she said.
“He’s a Democrat. I’m a Republican. But that didn’t matter,” she said. “He would always tell me, ‘You’re capable of doing great things. Do what you think is right. Go for it,’ even though we have different opinions.”
Stewart said he always told students they should freely express themselves in his classrooms.
Some of the most powerful classes, he said, are those with respectful, lively discussions encompassing more than one side of an issue.
“It has always been my philosophy and that of the college and, I think, of the students, that it is really, really important to have an open dialogue that includes everyone’s viewpoints,” Stewart said.