Seeking to get some insight from the student group that's been making national headlines in recent months for daring to invite provocative alt-right heroes to the UC Berkeley campus, the New York Times got extended quotes from five Berkeley students who identify as conservative or Republican, and are part of the Berkeley College Republicans. You may be surprised to learn that one of them is no fan of President Trump and that all five of them are quite thoughtful, reasonable young people who are just trying to feel out their own places on the political spectrum and they reasonably believe they have a right to do so in a liberal college environment without having their more liberal peers treat their views as personal attacks.
One of these students is from the Bay Area, 20-year-old Jack Foley of San Rafael, who tells the paper that he arrived on campus believing he was a centrist, and it sounds like his views have been pushed further to the right by his own desire to reject the "prevailing orthodoxy on campus." He says he's been coming out of his shell since the canceled Milo Yiannopoulos event in February, wanting to challenge his peers' assumptions that "if you are Republican, you are racist; if you are conservative, you are sexist; if you fall on the right, you are a homophobe." And he rejects the idea "that speech is violent, that simply by espousing a view that you don’t like I am attacking you, I am oppressing you, I am assaulting you."
Foley, like fellow student Patrick Boldea, 19, is not necessarily any big fan of Ann Coulter, but they both recognize that the strategy of inviting controversial, high-profile speakers is a winning one for Berkeley College Republicans if what they want is to expose what they see as intolerance on the liberal side, and attacks on free speech in the name of political correctness. "Ann Coulter is definitely not the hill to die on," says Boldea, saying he wishes there were better representatives of conservative thought they could invite. He adds, "She was invited because she represents the voice of the president. You won’t find any hard-core intellectuals who do represent the president."
Also, Boldea said he was chastised by a sociology professor for writing a paper about how gentrification was a good thing in San Francisco a position that he, a 19-year-old who just moved here from Tennessee, I'm sure is well qualified to defend.
They also found a 20-year-old Russian woman, Maria Konakova, who considers herself a fan of Reaganomics and low taxes, but who doesn't approve of some of the provocative things the College Republicans have done to get a rise out of their peers like an "animal rights barbecue" where all they served was meat.
"People assume we are racist, we are xenophobic. They attach labels to us that are not true," says Naweed Tahmas, 20, a political science major who's of Persian descent, and comes from Oceanside, California. He serves as external vice president of the Berkeley College Republicans, and he says that on election night, he wasn't even wearing any Trump gear, but he was recognized on campus and got punched in the face. "This was my first semester at Berkeley," he says.