Chesapeake, VA
English & Journalism


Video games, Literature, Military History, Journalism, Photography, Movies

About Me
1 of 46
Entries Feed

Politics at the University of Richmond

December 3, 2017

Muddy cleats. Dead squirrels. Moldy bread. Political discussion.

What do all of these things have in common? Generally, I think, they’re things you’d rather avoid having at your Thanksgiving table. (Well, I mean, my mom’s from the country and she’s told me that her dad would hunt squirrels for dinner at irregular intervals, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Talking about our political views has become something many of us desperately avoid, and I think that’s unfortunate. Not only does listening to others talk about what they believe encourage us to interrogate our own opinions and question ourselves as to why we hold them, but it also forces us to examine the issues of our day from someone else’s vantage point. In the words of the immortal Harper Lee, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

Since coming to the University of Richmond, I’ve had a plethora of opportunities to learn about the political beliefs of others. While my hometown’s political climate is nothing approaching a monolith, at college I’ve met people quite literally from around the entire world. It’s been enlightening.

The opportunities to learn about the other side — and, if you’d forgive the hackneyed terminology, get politically engaged — are everywhere at UR, but one must take the initiative to seize them. That isn’t hard, thankfully.

And you don’t have to be a political science major, either. I’m not, although I’m often mistaken for one.

Take me. One of the most worthwhile things I’ve done here at school is apply for the SEEDS project, for which I went on service trip to McDowell County, West Virginia, last school year over spring break. Southern West Virginia is deep Trump country. For someone like me, whose points of disagreement with the president run the gamut from the efficacy of walls to keep out certain immigrants to food (my heart’s not big enough to accommodate someone who dips their steak in ketchup), this was beneficial. As I talked with the people of McDowell, I think I was able to garner a much better understanding of a lot of the reasons that motivated people to vote for Trump. (You can read about that trip on fellow Diarist Cory’s blog, here.)

But chances abound on UR’s campus, as well. In October, when the weather was beginning to cool but the campaigns to control Virginia’s government were still heating up, we hosted Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie — the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor, respectively, speak at our SHARP speaker series. Around the same time, both parties’ candidates for lieutenant governor held their debate on campus, which of course was free to attend.

If you’ve read my blog before, then you perhaps know a bit about my storied history with the University of Richmond College Democrats, which I’ve been involved with since the first semester of my freshman year. Of course, there is also a College Republicans club on campus, with whom we are friendly and regularly co-host events. (As the Collegian’s Opinions editor, I actually commissioned the CRs to write this op-ed endorsing Gillespie for governor — funny how extracurriculars can overlap!) Recently, a non-partisan group called the Politics Club has sprung up for students who are interested in politics but don’t feel particularly drawn to either side of the spectrum.

Observing and participating in discourse is one thing, but what about getting involved with the actual political process? Richmond, as Virginia’s capital, is obviously crucial to any statewide election. Earlier this year, the College Democrats went on a tour of the Virginia State Capitol and sat in on a meeting of the General Assembly. Also this year, just as last year, I spent a few hours of my weekends knocking on doors to get out the vote for the Democratic candidate. On Election Day, I and a few other club members spent most of the time I wasn’t in class shuttling people to the polls. The school offers shuttles, too, but its schedule doesn’t always coincide with those of individuals. Given how tight our House of Delegates race was, I have to believe it was worthwhile!

Overall, I’m exceedingly glad to attend a university whose place in the capital region of the state affords it easy access to centers of policy, and whose administration is so dedicated to combatting political apathy.

Call me Hunter, or the chosen one, or Chuck Norris, or the Lone Wanderer from Vault 101, or anything else that's awesome because it would really boost my self-esteem. However you choose to style me, know that my intention is to give you a firsthand impression of life here at the University of Richmond. Late study nights, Saturday evening shindigs, extracurriculars, that sort of thing.

And yes, it has occurred to me that this is an About Me and I've neglected to tell you much about me. So I'm from Chesapeake, Virginia, a place just south of Norfolk that's large enough to be a county but isn't because reasons. There's not much to do in Chesapeake other than going for a dip in the Great Dismal Swamp (ill-advised) or head to a neigboring town to hit the beach, and I think that's part of the reason I spent most of my earlier childhood holed up in my room reading books or playing Playstation. 

I branched out in my high school years, though, and I've developed affinites for genealogy, running, film, and photography. I am not a man of many talents, though among them include the remarkable power to turn my thumb all the way backwards, the ablility to tell you almost everything you'd ever want to know about the Star Wars Expanded Universe (which unfortunately has been declared non-canon, thanks to J.J. Abrams), and the astonishing skill to cook Minute Rice in 58 seconds. My playlist includes mostly oldies, and my favorite movies all came out before I was born. So you might say I'm a bit of a hipster. I've even got my own snazzy red Polaroid camera, which is practically a license to hipster in this day and age, right?

So, yeah, that's me. In conclusion, read on! Hope you enjoy my blog posts!

Why UR?

I'm not a very decisive person. During my senior year of high school, I envied the kids who were certain straight from the get-go where they wanted to go to college. I had applied to several great schools that I thought could offer me a great education, but I had trouble picking which one was the best fit for me. I constantly held debates against myself, weighing the pros and the cons of each school in my head and occasionally and occasionally audibly voicing my concerns a la Gollum: "How about this one?" "No, no, too big. And too far away. Going back and forth to home could prove to be a real bummer." "Good point, but look at their alumni network! They could hook you up with a job fresh out of graduation!" "Ah, true, but check out these student reviews online. You really want to go to a place with this reputation?" "Do you believe everything you read in those reviews?" "Of course I do. They can't put anything on the internet that isn't true." And so on and so on. I still hadn't made a decision by mid-April, so the jury was still out on where I was going just two weeks before the deadline. Pressure from my parents and peers to choose just kept piling on heavier and heavier. Around this time I went to a Richmond Scholars visit, which afforded prospective students who'd been offered scholarships from the University the chance to get a glimpse of life as a student here. The visit was really what sealed the deal for me. The beautiful campus was a joy to explore even in the surprisingly sweltering spring heat. I had the opportunity to sit in on a class, which wasn't very big. Richmond's small class sizes allow for intimate discussions as opposed to drawling lectures and make it rather easy to develop close relationships with professors. I've found that most of them encourage you to meet with them in their spare time, something that might be more difficult to do at a larger institution. While at the Scholars visit, I talked with my host for hours. He gave me a bare bones, down-to-earth explanation of what he thought of Richmond. And I know it's a total cliche, but there's one thing he told me that I really think rings true here at Richmond and life in general: It can be a great and rewarding experience, but only if you put in the effort to make it one. Bottom line, I think Richmond gives students the resources needed to make their college years more than worthwhile, moreso than any other school I checked out. We've got top-notch academics to satisfy any hungry mind, we've got a plethora of extracurriculars to enjoy, tons of chances to broaden our horizons (literally and figuratively), and of course, we've got the chow at D-Hall. All that's really what made me want to spend the next four years of my life here.