On Wednesday afternoon, the Seymour Gallery held two tables, each garnering a crowd: one from the Knox Conservative Club, and one from the Knox Young Democratic Socialists of America. The Conservative Club was hosting a “Change my Mind!” discussion, where they sat at a table and asked people walking by to change their mind on the stance that “Borders are Moral.”
The YDSA stood two tables down with a tri-fold poster asking students to leave responses on post-it notes to the question, “What would be a better use of the $50 billion for the border wall?”
“We don’t usually get a chance to have dialogue like this so when people come and walk up to our desk they can kind of see what’s going on,” said freshman and Conservative Club member Flynn Hersch. “And some people might be upset about it and we want to change that message — so if they go to our desk and they’re upset maybe we can find something we have in common. We don’t want a yelling match, we just want to talk. That’s the main mission: to just have discourse in a civil matter.”
The event was inspired by YouTube videos by Steven Crowder, a conservative political commentator, Hersch said. The idea to emulate the Crowder format was proposed during a Conservative Club meeting as a possible way to engage with the student body and raise awareness of the club.
During the event, cell phones were used to film the discussions. Hersh explained that the club intended to go over the footage after the event to learn from the discussions. Conservative Club member and senior Ben Haertel emphasized that the cameras were pointed toward the club members, not the people approaching the table.
“The purpose of filming the event is just for our own security. The only people who are being filmed are us — nobody in front of the table is caught on tape,” Haertel said.
Sophomore and co-chair of the YDSA Matt Milewski, along with others in the YDSA club, helped set up a table nearby in Seymour Gallery not with the intention of engaging in an opposition, but to express how they felt about the issues being discussed.
“The problem is that the precedent for these kind of events is that they are organized with the intention of provoking and agitating people and recording them and then being able to say, ‘look, we are being targeted, people don’t like us, we’re being harassed just because we have an unpopular political opinion’ — when in reality they are the ones who begin that when they sit in a public area and openly state their support for border apartheid and prohibition on women’s reproductive rights,” Milewski said. “These are issues that grab people really deeply and personally.”
The event got the most traffic around 5 p.m. when people walking by, including some faculty, stopped to listen to the conversations happening at the Conservative Club’s table. Meanwhile, members of the YDSA approached the crowd and asked if they would like to contribute to their poster. At the peak of the event, the gallery was difficult to travel through with pile-ups of people.
The Conservative Club plans on tabling again on Thursday, Feb. 28, this time with the stance that “Abortion is wrong.”
“You’ll expect the club to be more active in the next couple years. We have a lot of young leaders in our club like myself and a couple of our friends, and we’re looking to make more of an impact on this campus,” Hersch said. “And at the end of the day we’re not trying to stir the pot, we’re just trying to have representation in our school.”