Senior Mark Gianfalla discusses his role as president of Notre Dame’s chapter of College Republicans.
Mark Gianfalla, senior finance major and president of the College Republicans at Notre Dame, recently sat down with the Rover to discuss political club activism on campus.
The College Republicans reach out to the student population through creative campus events that Gianfalla said “get a fair amount of notoriety.” Activities Night is a major source of club membership, particularly from the first year class.
Gianfalla stated that the club is as inclusive as it is able to be, given its mission and purpose. “We are limited to who we can include based on political ideology, as well as following closely with the Republican [N]ational [C]ommittee’s platform,” Gianfalla said.
The group is open to the majority of the student body, Gianfalla said, based on the assumption that a significant portion of the campus population shares the club’s values.
“I think [the club] represents the majority of the students’ political and ideological beliefs and the party alignment … I think the majority of campus would identify as a Republican or conservative to at least some extent,” said Gianfalla.
Gianfalla spoke of where the College Republicans fit on the spectrum of political clubs present on Notre Dame’s campus. “That’s the great thing about having a number of political organizations on a campus. Now we have College Democrats, College Libertarians, bridgeND, PSA, a few others … We fit into that as representing one specific political party, down that party’s line 100 percent. There are other organizations that will piece together people who want to be across the line, some socially liberal, fiscally conservative, although we accommodate some of those students as well.”
The College Republicans collaborate with other student groups—including the College Democrats, Student Government, and Notre Dame Right to Life—to coordinate various campus programs and events including Political Brew, a monthly political discussion group, on Sundays.
Gianfalla spokeabout the student group’s application of conservatism and how it relates to the Catholic identity of the university.
“We draw a fine line between conservative values politically and conservative values religiously,” he said. “Our club stays on the line of those political conservative values. But at a Catholic university, I think having a strong, political organization bodes well for the university.”
Gianfalla stated that the College Republicans have received significant positive feedback from alumni, particularly within the past year, expressing satisfaction and showing support for their work on campus.
“Keeping a high profile in that past year does bode well with a number of alumni. I’ve gotten a number of emails just this last spring itself that are very happy to see the club gaining notoriety on campus,” said Gianfalla.
After the campus-wide controversy that gripped the Notre Dame community as a result of Ann Coulter’s visit to campus last year, many are curious about the College Republicans’ speaker and event plans for the upcoming academic year.
“I would say to never underestimate what we have up our sleeves. We are looking to start some serious conversations about globally important topics that receive either little attention or are seen as taboo for not being politically correct. We are in talks now with a number of renowned speakers who have expressed interest in coming to campus—the only challenge is to raise the money to make it happen,” Gianfalla told the Rover.
Gianfalla previewed other signature events that the club is planning on spearheading this year. “We just finished planning and coordinating a visit from Senator Rick Santorum that was met with a great turnout. Down the line we are looking to expand our annual Lincoln Day Dinner, add at least one more major speaking event, and create week-long discussions on various relevant topics.”
As a vocal leader in an active, partisan political student group on a college campus, Gianfalla and his fellow officers at times encounter opposition. “Being open and boisterous about partisan politics is not without its fair share of criticism. I, personally, and our club have been attacked a number of times by both students and ill-intending faculty, but I expect that to an extent when I wear my political beliefs on my sleeve,” Gianfalla said to the Rover.
Gianfalla also reflected on the value of his involvement and the solidarity that the College Republicans have built based on shared passion and interest.
“Beginning last year when I started out as president, I have had a number of students either tell me they found a family in our club, or that they feel like the club has openly and boisterously represented views they were too afraid to share. That’s the most rewarding part.”
Catriona Shaughnessy is a sophomore pursuing a psychology major along with a pre-health supplementary major. She is a seasoned connoisseur of the North Dining Hall cereal bar, and she strategically selects her study spots to correspond with the free-coffee spots on campus. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: In an article published on September 25, “Cultivating conservative values in the Republican Party,” College Republicans was not credited as the official sponsor of Senator Rick Santorum’s visit to campus. The Rover apologizes for the error.