University campuses are bastions for liberal ideas, with the majority of students and faculty identifying as left-wing. However, pockets of conservative and free-market thought exist through the presence of conservative political groups. This can be seen in both the United States and the United Kingdom with the existence of College Republicans chapters and Conservative Societies, respectively, reflecting the values of the ruling parties in both countries.
Having served as the treasurer of Boston University’s (BU) College Republicans from 2016 until 2018 and currently, as the post-graduate representative of the University College London (UCL) Conservative Society, I have witnessed some common elements but also differences between the two organizations.
Types of Events
First and foremost, it is essential to notice that Greek life is something non-existent in the United Kingdom. However, the drinking age in the country is 18 years old, meaning that the majority of people beginning college are old enough to consume alcohol. Conservative — or Tory — society social events many times occur at local pubs. Furthermore, these societies often engage in “port and policy” debates where a panel of students debate contentious issues with speakers and the audience enjoying glasses of port wine. These port and policy events sometimes occur in black or white tie. Speaking of formal dress, Tory Societies also organize several fine dining events at exclusive members clubs, which at times include distinguished guests from British politics.
On the other hand, events organized by College Republicans tend to be relatively informal. Meetings often take the form of discussions about current events. However, these discussions usually take place in the form of roundtables, and there are no panels of speakers. Besides, the drinking age in the United States is 21 years old, so only a small number of students can legally consume alcohol, meaning that alcohol at events and socials is out of the question.
A common type of event that takes place in both countries is debates with “rival” political organizations, such as Labour Societies or College Democrats. Even though these events were not frequent during my tenure, they took place in other years as well as in other institutions.
The advantage of studying in the capital of the United Kingdom is that access to political figures is easier. Therefore, many of the speakers we got to host at UCL included Jacob-Rees Mogg MP, Jeremy Hunt MP, and many others. Other speakers included conservative-friendly professors and researchers at think-tanks. Furthermore, speaker fees are unheard of in the United Kingdom, and universities were generally helpful in giving space for “controversial” speakers to have a platform. Leftists protesters trying to shut down speakers, at least at UCL, were also non-existent.
In Boston, it was nearly impossible to get in-office senators and congressmen to speak on campuses. At the same time, high profile speakers included conservative commentators such as Allen West and Katie Pavlich. They both spoke at BU. However, when Young America’s Foundation chapter of BU invited Ben Shapiro to campus, several leftist groups tried to prohibit Mr. Shapiro from speaking while the university imposed five-figure security fees and attempted to cut the audience in half. Other speakers included staff members from the Massachusetts Republican Party and other conservative organizations.
An element that both organizations have in common is the opportunity for students to campaign for candidates running for office. Even though both Boston and London are left-of-center hotspots, contentious seats for the state legislature and the House of Commons exist not far from the university campuses.
In both organizations, members from all political backgrounds are welcome. You would occasionally get open-minded members from the Labour Party, as well as Democrats, to attend many of the events. However, the main difference was that Tory Societies had more international members than College Republicans did, even though both UCL and BU are institutions with a high number of international students. Furthermore, members for other universities were also more likely to attend events at UCL than at BU, and some events were co-hosted between institutions.
Having served in both organizations, I have made some of my best friends and have never regretted joining. Such organizations are an excellent first step into politics and a great way to meet like-minded people. I would recommend every conservative in a university student to join.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.