Republican students fight for voice at DePaul

Been (second from left) and other DePaul students pose with Sen. Ted Cruz (R - Texas) at a 43rd Ward Republicans fundraiser in October 2014. Been is supporting Trump this election. (Photo courtesy of MARK WEYERMULLER)
Been (second from left) and other DePaul students pose with Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) at a 43rd Ward Republicans fundraiser in October 2014. Been is supporting Trump this election. (Photo courtesy of MARK WEYERMULLER)

To be conservative at DePaul is to be in the few.

This notion of course comes to no surprise, as the city of Chicago has become distinctly known for its long-standing left-wing politics.  A city not only responsible for notably raising the current president of the United States, but also this presidential election’s current front-runner for the Democratic nomination — Hillary Clinton.

In a city that hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1927, it’s more than safe to say conservatism lies on the outside of Chicago’s preferred political spectrum.

And while DePaul finds itself in the heart of Chicago, there are certainly some elephants around that refuse to adjust to the ideals held in the donkey den of the Midwest.

For some students at DePaul, registering themselves as a republican is synonymous with being an outsider of the school’s political thought.   For political science student Pauline Gebczak, being a conservative means always being the minority in class — so much so as to being uncomfortable to share contrasting opinions.

“I would gladly debate with students that are more liberal than myself, but these discussions often turn into shutting down the person with a differing opinion,” Gebczak said. “I would say this is true for professors as well. Instead of facilitating a conversation about a topic so that students can all challenge their ideas, lectures turn into soap box speeches against conservatives.”

DePaul sophomore Jorin Burkhart has shared similar experiences as well.

“When it comes to the political science classes I take, I constantly find myself being the only counterpoint in any discussion we have.  Most students just nod their heads at the professor,” Burkhart said.

“And if anyone does talk, it’s usually just them regurgitating any points the professor already brought up.  If I say I disagree, I get stares. I mean sometimes people really dislike me for voicing any conservative opinion in class, and it can be awkward.”

But Burkhart has never let any backlash stump him from voicing any of his opinions.

As well as being a member of the DePaul College Republicans, Burkhart recently became the campus director for DePaul Cruz Crew — the official student led organization supporting Ted Cruz. And in the midst of this presidential election, Burkhart plans on being more active than ever by spreading his conservative ideals across campus, in hope of gaining support from student voters.

“To me, Ted Cruz embodies what it is to be a real conservative.  It took me some time to decide on one candidate at first, but I think Cruz stands closest with my personal beliefs and ideals,” Burkhart said.

“I think he’d be a great president, and as campus director for his campaign at this school, I’m trying to convince people of that very same message.”

A message DePaul junior Nicole Been shares quite similarly, though for a different republican candidate.

For many conservatives at DePaul, Been’s name rings a familiar bell as she has become one of school’s most active political leaders on campus.

“It can be hard being a Republican at DePaul. But I’m not someone that will sit there and just play victim, you move on and deal with how people react.””

Serving as a president of DePaul College Republicans, Been’s past work experience includes interning for Bruce Rauner, being First Vice Chairman of Illinois College Republican Federation and Chapter President of Turning Point USA.

“It’s a busy lifestyle, and it’s hard to keep track of everything, but being active here (in politics) is something I’ve loved since high school,” Been said, noting in high school she had put McCain Palin stickers on her binders.

Recently, she served as Midwest Regional Director of Students of Santorum.  After Rick Santorum ended his presidential campaign earlier this month, Been was in need of a new GOP candidate to stand behind — one that would stir equal with the right wing values she saw in Santorum.

After weighing the options of the many candidates, she had made her decision — landing the position as the National Northern Regional Director for the official student organization, Students for Trump.

“If it came to it, I’d feel comfortable voting for any of the republican candidates running right now, but for me I most strongly support Donald Trump,” Been said.  “He’s so real, and he’s brutally honest about what he believes.”

“He’s not someone that would be bullied into anything,” she said.

Much like Burkhart and Gebczak, Been has also received her share of negative reactions from others for having right-wing ideals at a left-wing campus.  Even claiming She has even seen her DePaul College Republican and Students for Trump posters ripped down by other students.

“It can be hard being a republican at DePaul. But I’m not someone that will sit there and just play victim, you move on and deal with how people react,” Been said.

After publically coming out in support for Trump earlier this month, the responses were much different than she had anticipated.

“There was a lot more negative reaction than I thought. I’ve had friends disagree with my views before—I’ve even lost friends before — but this was the first time I had family members coming to me and asking what am I doing supporting him,” Been said.

“I just kept saying to myself, ‘how dare you question my conservatism?’”

Been — on behalf of DePaul College Republicans — will face off in a debate against DePaul Democrats and DePaul Socialists on Super Tuesday (On March 1), where she plans to spread her conservative ideals while the three clubs discuss prominent issues surrounding this presidential election.

“My main goal that night is to spread the Republican message and values to anyone who might be uninformed, or just following a candidate because they’re trendy,” Bean said.

“I look forward to a nice polite and clean debate.”