Who are the Calvin College Republicans?


Photos courtesy of Calvin College Republicans.

It’s especially easy to forget or neglect the faces behind our political organizations in today’s political climate, where politics have become a hot topic for college campuses like Calvin. The Calvin College Republicans are no stranger to this environment — especially since, according to the Pew Research Center, more and more college graduates continue to identify as liberal.

The student organization seeks to “engage God’s world” in a way “guided by conservative principles,” according to their website. But one doesn’t have to look far to know that the political environment at Calvin isn’t clearly defined as liberal or conservative, as an Atlantic feature from last year illustrates.

Anu Teodorescu, a junior studying political science, thinks Calvin’s political environment is a bit nuanced. She said that the “student body [is] fairly acceptive to LGBTQ ideas” and other ideas that are generally considered liberal, but that the faculty and Christian tradition of Calvin tends to be more conservative. Jayvin Wolfe, a junior engineering major, said “the conservative presence is less vocal than the liberal presence at Calvin.” Thus, perhaps, what the Calvin Republicans are doing is amplifying the conservative voice on campus.

Collin Riddering, a junior studying business and political science, has different feelings; he believes Calvin is too liberal. And, citing the pro-life agenda, he believes Calvin should start praising “what [President Trump] has done for Christians.”

A few leaders from the Calvin College Republicans suggested that although they feel free to express their ideas on campus and feel supported by the college, they aren’t the most well-liked group on campus. Organization treasurer Brennan McClain suggested today’s political climate and the polarizing messages of more extreme politicians like Trump may play into outsiders’ perspectives of the student organization.

But not everyone has a positive view of Calvin Republicans, according to McClain. However, he does acknowledge “it’s a little better than what I’ve read on the news. We don’t get as much hate at Calvin. If people don’t like us, they’re usually quiet about it.”

“We’re respected,” said McClain.

Fellow conservative Riddering disagrees. Citing the Calvin Republicans’ lack of support for Trump, Riddering says, “I think they are too moderate … They are not Republicans if they do not support our president.”

“Don’t call yourself a Republican group and then trash our president,”  he continued. “They basically endorsed Hillary Clinton.”
And even though there are mixed feelings about what outsiders think about the organization, leadership acknowledged their gratitude to the college for supporting them and funding their annual trip to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

There are seven members on Calvin College Republicans leadership. Let’s meet a few of them.

Photos courtesy of Calvin College Republicans.

A Busy President Who Likes to Read — Kennedy Genzink

In many ways, Genzink has a lot in common with the average Calvin student: she watches Netflix, delights in spending time with her friends and enjoys attending a local church — her church being Crossroads Bible Church. The biggest difference perhaps is that she finds herself with the responsibility that comes with being the president of an organization, which includes planning a trip to CPAC and running meetings.

And like many students, she cares about her family. “I try to make it home and see my family as often as I can,” she said. Genzink, talking about her mother, said, “She is my biggest cheerleader throughout all of my life … I try to be like her because I believe she emulates what a follower of Christ should look like..”

Genzink is a junior studying business with a human resources concentration and also works at the campus bookstore. Last year she was a member of Student Senate, helped the arrangement of setting up the new coffee shop on campus with senate and studied in Spain. Additionally, she considers herself a reader; her current favorite book is “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp, a book about “Living a life of thankfulness and grace.”

After college, rather than pursuing a career in politics, Genzink is interested in business, perhaps working in a hospital’s human resources firm, although she is open to other possibilities.

Photos courtesy of Calvin College Republicans.

A Newfound Catholic Faith — Brennan McClain

It’s not everyday at a school founded by Dutch Reformed Christians, in a Dutch Reformed tradition, that you’ll encounter a seriously religious Catholic student. In fact, according to the Calvin College 2018 Day 10 report, there are only 35 Catholic students at Calvin. McClain will be the 36th, as he is about to get baptized into the Catholic Church this coming Easter. On his soon to be Catholic faith, the organization’s treasurer said, “it is absolutely my calling and it is the right fit for me.”

McClain, the treasurer of Calvin Republicans, also plays on the hockey team (Division 3) and works for Under Armour. While also in process of becoming Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), he laughed about his commitments and noted, “I have no free time really.”

However, he did find time to read Ben Shapiro’s “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth,” a book he would call his current favorite.

His relationship with his girlfriend, Bella, is the relationship he pointed to as the most meaningful relationship in his life. He said, “Bella has shown me far and above what she had to do and has shown me how much more God has to offer for me, and how much more of myself I can offer to other people.”

This is his second year with the organization and his first year on leadership. With his time left at Calvin, he hopes to help the club grow in membership and to continue to host events with the Calvin Democrats.

He studies sports management and business finance. After graduating, he hopes to go to graduate school and to eventually work in the front office for a hockey or baseball team.

Photos courtesy of Calvin College Republicans.

A Dancer Who Loves her Grandfather — Alexa Velloney

Velloney models herself after her grandfather; although he isn’t here today, his impact on her is. She says, “I try to live my life in the way I think he would live his. Every day was a good day to him.”

Reflecting on how she developed her conservative beliefs, she pointed to her family and how she was raised conservative. “Me and my dad would always listen to politicians on the radio … and think about their different ways of thinking,” she said, which had an influence on her.

Although Velloney considers herself a conservative, she says, “Everybody needs to find their own opinions … and it’s okay if they don’t know exactly what road they stand on.”

Velloney is a first year student political science major whose main role with the Calvin Republicans is assisting with the event planning. In her free time, she likes to dance and to instruct other dancers at Grand Rapids Parks and Rec. To relax, Alexa often paints or does pottery. And as far as reading material goes, Velloney recommends the book “Unified” by Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott, a story about an interracial friendship in the House of Representatives.

Last semester she worked on multiple campaigns, including one for John James, a Michigan Republican nominee who lost his race for the United States Senate. She hopes to immediately continue working on campaigns after graduating.

Photos courtesy of Calvin College Republicans.

What Do They Do?

For starters, the organization’s main goal is to act as a social atmosphere and “to get kids exposure,” according to treasurer Brennan McClain. This is why the club tries to “keep it open and keep it civil.” Likewise, this reflects the activities of the average meeting, which include snacks, usually brought by leadership, and either a movie or a guest speaker.

If you attend a meeting, expect Chick-fil-a.

The speakers at these meetings often include people from local political campaigns, such as U.S. representative for Michigan’s 2nd district Bill Huizenga and the current United States Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, who spoke at a meeting last year.

They try to meet biweekly, with about 15 to 20 people showing up at each meeting, according to McClain. They also go to a few larger events, such as CPAC, the annual conservative convention where speakers include people like Ben Shapiro and Donald Trump.

You don’t need to be a conservative or even a Republican to attend one of their meetings or events. All are invited, although moderates attend more than Democrats. Extending the invitation to non-conservatives helps “create a healthy discourse and dialogue,” according to the organization’s president, Kennedy Genzink.

Conservative Values

Their webpage defines their mission as the following: “The Calvin College Republicans are committed to guiding students to actively discern and engage God’s world. … by connecting political issues, speakers, debate and activism guided by conservative principles.”

However, because the group is made up of many individuals of varying political beliefs, they don’t take specific stances on policy issues such as legal immigration. People fall all over the conservative political spectrum. Genzink said, “our opinions vary.”

Some members want the Republican party to be a more encompassing party. McClain says, “What I’m seeing from the Democratic party, [is that] they like to alienate a lot. Such as … it is a sort of unsaid thing that you have to be pro-choice if you’re a Democrat… As Republicans all we want is the government to be smaller,” and thus, if you desire a small government, McClain would say that the rest is of minor importance.

It’s worth noting that the Calvin Republicans don’t live in a political vacuum; they are often asked to endorse candidates, and in 2016 they made a deliberate choice not to endorse Trump. The leadership seemed to believe this is still the consensus of the group. Genzink said, “It’s very important to acknowledge the good things that he has done but it’s very important to acknowledge there have been bad things done too.”

However, Velloney says concerning Trump’s 2020 run, “we will have to reconsider some things, for sure.”

The Calvin College Republicans have preventive strategies for keeping alt-right ideas out of the organization. Genzink said that if someone more aligned with the alt-right tried to join leadership, they wouldn’t let them; and, once, they had to turn down a student who wanted to go to CPAC because of his extreme views, according to McClain.

McClain wants to communicate to other students and those thinking about attending an event that “We aren’t all evil, racist people,” he even laughed as he continued, “our leadership is mostly women too … we aren’t sexist either.” Genzink added, “We want to love people.

Stay tuned for a features article on the Calvin College Democrats.