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If you think all Hampshire College students by definition lean to the left, meet Ricky Tsay 06F, who was elected April 18 as chair of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans (MACR).
Tsay, a third-year philosophy student, is interested in economic issues and in a renewal of intellectual conservatism, or as he describes it, “articulating a post-modern conservatism.”
He ran for MACR chair on a platform that argued that the Republican Party in Massachusetts needs to be renewed and that demoralized Republican youth need to be reenergized. In interviews, he talks a lot about being loyal to his party.
The MACR works to elect Republican candidates, and Tsay spent weeks on the campaign trail last year, supporting candidates in Iowa and in his home state of Florida. But he has broader goals for the MACR: using Web 2.0 social networking technology to bring together Republican clubs on campuses across the state, establishing direct communication with state and local conservative activists, and transforming the organization into one of grassroots activism.
As chair, Tsay would like to expand the MACR into a group that provides social connections for young conservatives in Massachusetts.
Tsay said what drew him to Hampshire College initially was Loren Pope’s book, Colleges That Change Lives: “When I read about Hampshire in that book, it didn’t matter to me that Hampshire was consistently listed [in other college guidebooks as] among the ‘most liberal’ schools. I could have chosen a conservative school, but I wanted to be able to apply what I am learning to the real world. No other school offers such freedom to study what you want in a way that isn’t sidetracked by trivialness. You are guided by professors who are experts in their fields, and Hampshire requires that you develop a real ability to write and think critically.”
As a first-year student, Tsay knew that his conservative political views were those of a minority not only at Hampshire but also within the larger Five College area. At the same time, he immediately loved the intellectual environment he found on campus and felt he had indeed chosen the best college for him. He responded in true Hampshire fashion, by creating the community he wanted.
Tsay led efforts to found a Republican Club at Hampshire and he reached out to others at Republican events throughout the Pioneer Valley, establishing a network that ultimately helped him win the MACR chair, even though he described himself as an “underdog candidate.”
He received endorsements from Republican clubs at other Massachusetts schools, including Harvard, Wellesley, and Smith.
He thinks his own experiences prove that the MACR can play an important role in the future by helping conservative students across the state to feel socially connected.
Tsay plans to write his senior thesis at Hampshire on the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He will spend the summer completing research in Copenhagen, just as he did last summer. This year, though, he will take a break from the academic work to attend the College Republican National Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., one of the perks of his new position.