In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, the president of the College Republicans reveals why the student group decided to use Trump’s “Build the Wall” slogan on its Washington Avenue Bridge panel during Paint the Bridge Day and what it’s like to vocalize a conservative viewpoint at the University of Minnesota
The College Republicans were about to kick off their first meeting since the Republican Party’s big win the night before. The first to arrive at the 7 p.m. meeting were two gentlemen dressed head-to-toe in blue Donald Trump/Mike Pence attire. Before the door could close behind the pair, they began drawing what appeared to be rows and rows of bricks on the main stretch of the largest whiteboard in the classroom.
More students began filing into the meeting spot and high fives were exchanged as energy filled the room.
Finally, the group’s president, Madison Faupel, arrived just as the first two members were adding the final touches to another nearby whiteboard drawing that featured a profile of a woman with large tears streaming down her face. Inscribed in a single teardrop were the words “Liberal Tears.”
Faupel looked at these drawings and told the artists to sit down. “Stop it,” she said. “Not cool guys…not cool.” Faupel then erased the board.
It was another night in the improbable journey of leading the College Republicans during one of the most divisive elections—and campus discussions—in history.
Post-election night, she now found herself playing mom to the giddy members in the student organization — a position she never thought she would be in.
Faupel had not even planned on running for president of the club due to heavy involvement with other conservative student organizations. She returned to campus in the fall and received a call from the College Republican’s board asking her if she could step in as president. “In my head I was thinking ‘No. No! I just got to school, but I have a problem where I can’t say no.’ The past president needed to focus on herself… She needed time to figure some things out on a personal level. So I didn’t really run for president, I just kind of walked into that and I walked into an absolute disaster of an election.”
Faupel has become a figure who is reviled by most and celebrated by few on a campus that slants liberal. Her Twitter feed is full of conservative viewpoints that typically provoke colorful and unfiltered responses.
Some of these responses include, “Let me find out where you stay btch”; “I expected that type of language coming from a CNT”; “Fun fact: You need your ass beat and also need to seek help”; “You are one of the woman’s that I can grab by the pussy and you can’t get mad cuz our master likes to do that, we must follow”; “IDK who you are but you need the taste smacked out of your mouth.”
Faupel takes these responses in stride without letting them prevent her from continuing to express her views.
The current junior and Rochester, MN native was helping her other conservative student organization — Turning Point USA — with its panel when the College Republicans texted her about the wall motif for its three panels. It came down to two texts.
“Friday morning, someone suggested, ‘Oh my gosh let’s write ‘Build the Wall’ and we can draw a wall across the bottom and I said, ‘Okay done.’ Literally, that was how the process went. Everyone thinks we had this long, vindictive, psycho plan to do it and it was really just a spur of the moment, ‘okay yeah that’s our panel go paint it so we can be done’…I didn’t paint it, they sent me a picture. I posted the photo on Facebook, and then the entire world burned down.”
After uploading the photo, Faupel was bombarded with angry emails, Facebook messages, and even death threats. Several students felt uncomfortable and extremely angry at the use of Donald Trump’s political jargon, and the panel was quickly vandalized with the words “Stop White Supremacy” painted across its surface. Faupel now found herself struggling to come up with a solution to the toxic environment surrounding her with little to no help from university faculty. The situation heated up when University President Eric Kaler sent out an email inviting all students to attend a “Campus Climate” discussion to address the importance of free speech, while also making sure those who felt marginalized by the “Build The Wall” slogan could voice their opinions.
Looking back, Faupel says that she wanted the “Campus Climate” conversation to be a place where all opinions were heard. She had prepared a statement and was willing to talk about why the College Republicans chose to use “Build The Wall” on their panel and how she didn’t see the harm in the phrase.
“To say that we’re anti-immigrants is crazy. To say that we’re against illegal immigration is not crazy. I don’t think anyone should be for illegal immigration for all the people that go through the work to become legal citizens. People would see it clearly, but they don’t, they jump past it. And all of a sudden we’re anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, misogynist psychos.”
As she twists a blonde strand of hair back into her tightly compacted bun, Faupel recounts her experience at the “Campus Climate” event. “It was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.” She explains, “I’m there for two minutes and hundreds of protesters come in, swarm the thing. One girl gets up and yells, ‘Are there any College Republicans here?’ And I didn’t want to sit there and hide so I put my hand up. She then asks me angrily, ‘ARE YOU MADISON?’ There are hundreds of angry protesters in this room and I’m like, ‘Uh huh,’ and there was a murmur throughout the room groaning at me. I felt like a tiny animal in a pack of wolves. What did I just do? I thought to myself. Why couldn’t I have just shut up? Why can I never shut up?”
Eventually Faupel got up to leave and a reporter stopped her to ask a few questions. After the interview ended she turned around and found herself cornered by several protesters. “All of a sudden I turn around and there are swarms of people screaming at me, ‘Why are you racist? Why are you trying to do this? You’re a bigot! You’re xenophobic!’ And I did not know what to do. What was I supposed to do? I was completely alone.”
In response to the Paint the Bridge Day incident, College Republicans Treasurer Maddy Dibble praised Faupel’s ability to confidently fend off the pressures from all different directions that wanted an apology from the College Republicans. “We were shaken and didn’t quite know what to do, and the whole time she was confident we had nothing to apologize for. She was willing to take the heat for the whole thing and put her name on anything for all of us. Not a lot of people would do that.”
Political views aside, College Democrats President Braxton Haake speaks highly of Faupel. “I think she [Faupel] is certainly an effective leader and a very good provocateur. She knows what she believes and she believes in it. I couldn’t disagree with her more on almost all of her politics, but that’s nothing to hold against someone personally. I’d love to have a debate with her.”
Faupel is well aware of the stigmas that are associated with the Republican Party; so when members of the College Republicans exhibit these attributes by drawing barbed wired walls and “liberal tears” at their meetings, she feels the need to put a stop to it.
“I’m not going to tell anyone what they can and cannot do. But this is unacceptable and they have to know that that is not what the Republican Party is about. It’s about freedom for all, economics, and fiscal responsibility. Not about hurting the other side emotionally or physically.”
On Nov. 1, the bipartisan student issues group on campus hosted a debate between the College Republicans, the College Democrats, and the Libertarian party. Not many students showed up to watch the civil conversation that happened between the representatives of each group. Organized events such as the debate are ways Faupel thinks all voices can be heard, and she said she wished more students and faculty would attend.
Her hope for the future is that the campus will become a place where students can express views without fearing for their safety. “Every week I have to remind people to be safe and not to wear your Trump hat outside of your home. I think it’s just sad that so many students have to sit there and they can’t speak their opinion because they’re legitimately scared of getting hurt. I just hope that the campus can start becoming more inclusive of diversity; diversity of thought, opinion, political affiliation, and going forward that’s the direction we take…Being civil and the fair treatment of all groups.”