Jake Lyons (COL ’20) and Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) were elected president and vice president, respectively, of the Georgetown University College Republicans on Nov. 28, marking a shift in the club’s focus toward building a strong community among its members.
Lyons and Hamilton hope to increase GUCR’s membership and promote political discourse within the club to foster a community on campus for conservatism. The pair plan to launch a digital communications team and an editorial team and to host more community initiatives such as roundtable discussions and networking events.
Lyons said GUCR’s lack of community focus hindered the ability of club members to connect.
“Our lack of focus towards our membership, our lack of vision going forward, actually finding specific areas where we wanted to make a difference, we were lacking in that area,” Lyons said.
He also added that a strong platform to express conservative ideas and rationales is the first step to increasing club membership. Hamilton noted that “conservative” has become a dirty word, so their main objective is to reframe the conversation around conservatism to create a space for people to defend Republican ideals.
Lyons and Hamilton have been members of GUCR since their freshman years. Both previously served on the club’s board.
GUCR board positions were widely uncontested this semester, according to outgoing President Allie Williams (SFS ’19), which she said contributed to a lack of ideological diversity on the incoming board. Williams also raised concerns that the incoming board would not continue the club’s legacy of fostering positive campus dialogue.
“I was very disappointed by the election this year,” Williams wrote in an email to The Hoya. “If more people had run for positions this year I believe we would be looking at a very different ideological makeup of the incoming administration.”
Lyons, who previously served as vice president, described himself as a “moderate Republican.” He said his own political leanings would not curtail the diverse breadth of political opinions in the club as GUCR aims to unite all different facets of conservatism.
Hamilton, who previously acted as director of membership, said he identifies as a strong conservative, both fiscally and socially. He initially supported Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Republican primary and voted for President Donald Trump in the general election.
“I consider myself socially conservative because I support traditional family values,” Hamilton said. “I’ve always been tempted to describe myself as a moderate, but I wouldn’t say that that’s an accurate description.”
Under previous leadership, GUCR has been able to create constructive dialogue and contribute to a positive, optimistic and productive political climate on campus, Williams said. However, Williams said the new leadership may not continue this legacy.
“Unfortunately, I do not see the same level of commitment to discourse from the incoming administration. Nor do I see a commitment to recognizing that there is no set build for a ‘conservative,’ and that ideological diversity should be embraced and recognized through dialogue and debate,” Williams wrote.
Lyons responded that the incoming board has members “all along the conservative political spectrum.”
“As far as external dialogue – our leadership has been involved with diverse groups on campus and actively pushed for and helped organize events that foster dialogue.”
Maria Cornell (SFS ’20), the incoming chair of the Georgetown University College Democrats, said she wants to “foster a culture and conversation of respect between the two organizations and move forward together, and as a country more generally.”
A primary goal for Williams as president of GUCR was to create a dialogue on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. Williams said she hopes the new administration will continue her efforts and that some members of the pre-transition board had hesitated to support an official stance on sexual assault in the past.
“One of the most frustrating parts of leading GUCR was the fact that certain members of my Board were unwilling to formally put the name of the organization on co-sponsorship opportunities regarding support for survivors,” Williams wrote. “I am hoping that the new administration will begin recognizing the importance of a nonpartisan fight for the rights and support of sexual survivors.”
Though the new board has not discussed an official stance on sexual assault survivors according to Lyons and Hamilton, they insisted there is no place in their board for anyone who does not fully support survivors.
“Allie Williams personally has been a very good supporter of sexual assault survivors,” Lyons said. “As a board, we have not had a discussion in the past about sexual assault survivors and the statement that some of the board members were not 1oo percent behind sexual assault survivors is definitely false. I’ve had conversations with every person on our board, and our board is 100 percent behind sexual assault survivors.”
Hamilton said that although an advocacy structure may be developed down the line, he and Lyons did not originally campaign on any specific policy issues. Lyons and Hamilton said they are both optimistic about the future of GUCR and the creation of a positive and accepting environment to further intellectual diversity on campus.
“Every person has a story. And every person has a million reasons why,” Hamilton said. “Something I was told in one of my classes here is that in order to have a truly fruitful discussion with someone, always assume the best intent.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated.