University Republicans find their voice on campus



Emma Pettit

When Ryan DeMara and Matthew Penza arrived at Villanova as freshmen last year, they were a little confused. They were friends at Cardinal O’Hare high school in Springfield, Pa., and they were both raised in Republican families. Conversing and reading about political issues facing the Republican Party was part of their daily lives. 

Since the University is a Catholic school, Penza assumed a lot or most of the students came from a conservative background. He also assumed that because of this, there would be a strong conservative voice on campus in which he could join. Yet both he and DeMara couldn’t find that outlet when they first got here.

“I don’t think there was a presence of (Republican) students who came together to discuss their views or debate,” Penza said, referring to his freshman year.

This year, the duo decided to change that.

DeMara, along with Penza and a few other friends, restarted the College Republicans of Villanova Club. The group is sponsored by political science professor Dr. Colleen Sheehan and meets at 7:30 every other Wednesday in Driscoll. 

When DeMara, president of the organization, first decided to help revamp the club, which had been dormant for some time, he was unsure how much interest to expect from the Villanova community. When 175 students signed up at the activities fair and 50 attended the first meeting, he was floored.     

“It’s easy to get people to sign up, but then they came out, so it shows they really believe in it and care about it. They’re all very enthusiastic people,” DeMara said.

Though the club is relatively new, DeMara and Penza, who is the group’s social chair, are thinking big for the year to come. They want to bring in guest speakers and politicians to Villanova and are considering sponsoring a trip to see current presidential candidate Rick Santorum speak. They hope to get involved in political campaigns, host charity whiffle ball tournaments and barbecues, and make it known that there are vocal, conservative voices at Villanova that want to be heard.

When talking about their club, DeMara and Penza made sure to emphasize that it’s “voices” they want to be heard, not just a singular voice. Both students encourage healthy debate and insist anyone is welcome to join in the conversation, including those who do not fully identify as Republican. 

Already, the group has members that fall anywhere from conservative to moderate Republican, from libertarian to independent. DeMara hopes the variation in the members of the club will dispel the myth that Republicans all think the same and that their party is dwindling over time. 

“The misconception you always hear about Republicans is that they’re old,” DeMara said. “But from what we’ve seen, that’s just not true. We are a very diverse group of young people.”

With this group of young people, DeMara and Penza anticipate catalyzing real change at Villanova. They hope to examine, debate, and champion what they believe to be the Republican ideals of limited federal government and personal liberties. 

Penza stressed that now, more than ever, students need to get involved in politics and contemplate what they believe to be the best course of action for the country to take. He and DeMara hope the College Republicans of Villanova will help students do that. 

“A lot of people are realizing, ‘Oh crap, I have to pay attention to politics because I can vote now. I need to get a job now, and it’s going to be affecting me soon,’” Penza said.