A victory for the CR's

Ben Shapiro

3/31/2004 12:00:00 AM - Ben Shapiro

It's not often that we hear inspirational news coming from America's college campuses. But this week at my home school, Republicans struck a blow for free speech. By coordinating talk radio, college activists and the conservative audience, California's College Republicans were able to overcome liberal obstructionism at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Until March 19, the California College Republican Convention planned for April 2-4 was ready to move ahead as scheduled. About 400 students from around the state would converge at UCLA to coordinate their yearly campaign. The rooms were booked five months in advance. Provisions for payment had been made.

Then, the UCLA administration stepped in. Two weeks before the scheduled convention date, the UCLA administration told the College Republicans to open their wallets. UCLA now wanted $4,900 for the rooms, instead of the original $900 fee, and $17,000 for security. Some of the rooms had been given away, so even if the Republicans ponied up, they would have to scale down their activities.

It was a devastating blow to the convention. "These 11th hour changes were nothing short of a calculated attempt to price the College Republicans out of the convention," Seth Norman, the executive director of the Los Angeles County Republican Party, told me. "I would say that they were trying to kick us off campus, but they wouldn't even let us on campus at that point."

So, Norman and the other Convention Team members called up Al Rantel, 790-KABC Los Angeles' evening talk-show host. Rantel has long been a strong backer of college conservatives. "I support the College Republicans because they have the right political philosophy. They're young, and the party needs to keep an infusion of young people and young ideas if we're going to recruit more members and get new candidates and have a brighter future," Rantel told me. "I support them because getting their opinion out is a great way to counter some of the tremendous leftist bias that exists on the campus."

Rantel isn't just an armchair quarterback, railing against liberals on campus. When the UCLA Bruin Republicans decided to confront MEChA, the radical leftist Latino/a student group dedicated to re-establishing a "bronze nation" in the American Southwest, Rantel told his audience that the Bruin Republicans needed money. Within days, the Bruin Republicans had received over $30,000 in donations. "My audience has been amazing, beyond my wildest expectations," Rantel says. "They're willing to put their money where their mouth is."

Rantel had planned to broadcast live from the College Republican Convention. When Norman told him that the convention was in danger, Rantel went into action. "It's up to the conservative alumni to tell that administration they don't have a right to stop these kids," Rantel told his audience. Within the hour, the UCLA administration began receiving angry phone calls from Rantel's listeners.

When Norman's Convention Team met with the UCLA administration the next day, the administrators told Norman that they had to do something to stop the stream of angry phone calls. "It was a huge motivating factor for them to come to the table and work with us," Norman explains. During the meeting, the administration knocked down the security costs from $17,000 to $325. The rooms that had been "given away" suddenly reappeared and were allotted for the convention.

But the College Republicans were still short the extra $4,000 they needed for the rooms. During their next appearance on Rantel's show, one caller donated $5,000; Dr. Laura Schlessinger also personally donated $2,000 to the College Republican cause. "Al Rantel's listeners responded. They did everything we needed. They called UCLA and pressured them, alumni threatened to stop donating money, and then, when we still needed a few thousand dollars to get this off the ground, they donated instantaneously," states Norman. "It was really an amazing groundswell of support on all levels."

The success of the Rantel-College Republican-conservative audience nexis bodes well for the future of free speech on campus. Talk radio has obviously had a major impact on conservative thought; the talk radio audience is highly motivated and exceedingly generous. College Republicans, meanwhile, have the energy, if not the money, to do serious damage to liberal dominance on campus.

Rantel explains the newfound power of the campus right succinctly: "The left likes to take it by force, through student fees and through taxes. We do it because we believe in it, we know it's right, and we do it voluntarily. That difference defines the difference between the two political philosophies."