& A with the Presidents
Mara Meaney-Ervin ’09, president
of Smith Democrats, and Gretchen Hahn ’09, president of Smith
Republicans, talk about their interests, goals, and their
respective positions in this hot election season.
Mara Meaney-Ervin ’09, president, Smith College Democrats
Gretchen Hahn ’09, president, Smith College Republicans
Gate: Describe your
I am a government major with a minor in Economics.
I take my liberal education seriously though, and take
at least one class every semester in a department
that is neither my major nor minor.
Hahn: I am a government major with a minor
in public policy. One of my other interests is neuroscience.
At one time, I was convinced I was going to be a doctor
(thank you Grey’s Anatomy!). I turned
out to be horrible at chemistry so I decided to stick
with focusing on the policy issues that have emerged
around the scientific fields.
What are your goals as club president this year?
As President, I see myself, with the help of my Executive
Board, as an initiator and organizer for the events,
programs and trips desired by our membership. In addition
to all things Democratic, we also love little "d" democracy
and often vote on everything from upcoming events to
T-shirt designs in our meetings. Using the model of
past successful events as well as enthusiasm and criticism
from past years, we have crafted a year that promises
to get more Smithies involved with the Democrats and
keep them active and interested. I see my main responsibility
as continuing to provide and advertise political
opportunities on and off campus.
|GH: I have three
goals as president: 1) Membership growth is very important
to me. In order for us to grow, we have to reach out
to girls who may have grown up as Republicans, but
feel uncomfortable admitting it here at Smith. We are
a very small group. But as small as we are, we are
very diverse. 2) I want to keep our members engaged
in politics and civic action around our core issues
after the election. We also want to engage in education
and activist programs that bring more people into the
public sphere beyond just voting. 3) We want
to create opportunities and events that are fun and
educational for our members and for the community.
We need to move beyond some of the negativity that
surrounded our group this past year. I would like to
invite every girl on campus to come to one of our meetings.
We have a ton of fun and are always open to everyone,
regardless of political leanings.
What do you anticipate for your club this
Our kick-off meeting for the Smith Democrats took place
on September 8, and we were joined by 140 members who
are ready to jump right in and
hit the ground running. We have been sending vans every
weekend to campaign for Obama in the battleground states
of New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and to work on the
ground for many other important senate and house races
in the area. In addition to campaign
trips, we will be hosting events on campus, making phone
calls to encourage voter registration and in support
of specific issues and candidates. Working with the Republicans,
we are hosting events about the importance of voting,
with information to help get each and every Smithie registered.
After the election, we will
be hosting a number of speakers, holding panels and political
social events to continue to keep providing opportunities
for education and political activity.
of all, I anticipate a lot of campaigning!
The fall campaign season is exciting because it really
brings us all together as a party. We will also be
doing several voter awareness projects with the Smith
Democrats. As soon as the campaign is done, we will
start focusing on what Smith Republicans do best: making
a difference on campus and in our community. We will
continue to sponsor conservative speakers, panels,
and movies, and will offer a weekly opportunity for
members to meet in a “safe space” to discuss
ideas that are a bit countercultural compared to some
of the more liberal ideological perspectives at Smith.
Gate: Do you feel added responsibility in your position
in a year of a big election?
|MM: The scope of
this election has certainly added some gravity to the
position of president, although not necessarily in
actual responsibility level, as we are always a very
active organization. The most important element for
me is my own personal conviction - I absolutely take
to heart the responsibility to be involved and motivate
others to do the same in this historic election.
||GH: I feel some added
personal responsibility as president, but I actually
think the feeling extends to the whole club. Smith
College Republicans is an exciting organization, but
we are really a minority on campus. We profess an ideology
that a lot of students have little or no experience
with and we are the only representatives for the Republican
Party that many girls see on a regular basis. Everything
that the club does is subject to increased scrutiny.
We expect this to be a tough year for the Party at
the elections and a similarly tough year for us on
Gate: How would
you describe the atmosphere and attitudes at Smith toward
your club? Are people willing to discuss the issues?
The Smith College Democrats is one of the biggest organizations
on campus with a current mailing list with over 600
people. Smith tends to be a fairly liberal campus,
so we are generally well-received on campus. For the
most part, Smithies are interested in engaging in political
conversations, even on difficult issues. The Dems are
dedicated to many bipartisan issues, such as voter
registration and political awareness. Even in areas
where we disagree, we have a friendly and respectful
relationship with the Republicans club. This year alone
we are excited to offer a number of bipartisan events
and forums in conjunction with the Republicans on campus.
Gretchen and I meet regularly and I am lucky to have
the opportunity to work with her.
||GH: Prospective students
and their parents often ask what the atmosphere is
on campus, not just for Republicans, but also for a
variety of specific groups. I tell them that Smith
College strives to be open and accepting of everyone.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, not all students are
interested in upholding the standards of equality and
acceptance that the college sets for itself. Many college
Republicans on campus often feel threatened because
of their religious beliefs or sexual preference. This
should not be the case; the school should be creating
a “safe space” for all students
regardless of their beliefs. This is one of the reasons
why I am so interested in creating an opportunity for
Smith College Republicans and other groups on campus
to meet together and discuss tough issues important
to our campus and the nation.