Since the Knox Republicans dissolved last year and the Knox Libertarians shortly before due to lack of interest, there is currently no parallel conservative club on campus to complement the Knox Democrats. Now, a small group of students is trying to put together that club, but supporters say they still have a long way to go towards making it a reality.
“There’s been a small minority asking for an official outlet for their … emotions, if you will, their conservative-leaning emotions. I think it would add to the diversity on campus because [Knox] is all about minority rights, protecting individuals, but when it comes to us, there’s not really that kind of protection. When somebody like us speaks up in class, most often we’re just shot down immediately or ignored,” senior Karl Bair said.
With a largely liberal student body and faculty, Bair said it is hard to generate real debate on campus. He believes that is harming students’ education.
“When you’re only getting one side of the argument, I don’t think that’s diversity,” he said. “When you come to college, I think every one of your beliefs should be challenged, not only by your professors but also by your social group.”
If the organization is established, they will sponsor a speaker. One of Bair’s top picks is conservative talk show host Michael Medved.
“He would’ve been sponsored to come to campus this year, had we been able to organize anything last year,” Bair said.
Bair would also like to work with the Knox Democrats to hold an election debate in November with Knox students as representatives for the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Bair said the club would emphasize the fiscal values of conservatism with less stress on the social values.
“Most conservative candidates have a coherent fiscal conservative plan, and I think it would be easier to sell students on that as opposed to any sort of social judgments,” he said. “I think that’s why the Knox Libertarians were in effect at least for a little while. [They made] social issues less important — [they were] more about independence, but still [had] the same core fiscal conservative beliefs.”
Still, the level of student interest remains a problem for Bair and his conservative peers.
“[Conservative students are] just not out of the closet yet, I guess if you want to put it that way. But I guess we’ve found maybe five or six people including ourselves that might be interested,” Bair said.
So far, members have been trying to build a base through word of mouth. Bair admits that he is too busy to take on a leadership role in the club, but he hopes that a leader will emerge to establish a firm base for the future of the conservative voice on campus.