A new club aims to bring together students from across the political spectrum together for conversation.
The club is the first collegiate chapter of Common Party, a national organization founded to foster an environment where people from across the political spectrum can engage in respectful dialogue and “accentuate and celebrate [their] shared qualities and aims,” according to the organization’s website.
Marc Erlbaum, a film producer who received his master’s degree from Penn in 1999, founded Common Party last March in response to divisiveness following the 2016 presidential election. He recently reached out to Penn students about starting a chapter of the party on campus.
Common Party will host discussions and speaker events throughout the year for students at Penn, as well as those at neighboring schools, to encourage a diverse range of voices. Though the club will often discuss political topics, the group is nonpartisan, said College junior Nicole Rubin, one of the group’s leaders and a former reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian.
“Common goals, common decency, common party — that’s what we’re trying to promote,” she said. “It’s not that everyone should have the same views, because obviously that’s not only impractical, but that’s not what makes for good policy. It’s a diverse range of views that will actually bring about the best ends.”
Engineering junior Jordan Rosen said after the 2016 election, he felt “helpless,” adding that it seemed like “there [was] no hope.” He said he thinks students will be able find common ground on issues including hurricane relief and the value of education.
Common Party is co-sponsoring two discussions with students from Penn and Cairn University, a Christian university outside Philadelphia. At one of the events happening on Dec. 4, the groups will be hosting Arno Michaelis, a former neo-Nazi and the author of "My Life After Hate."
Rubin said she was eager to help bring the group to Penn because she was frustrated with the lack of productive discussion among politicians as well as her peers. She said it feels impossible to solve important problems without civil discourse.
“It’s hard to listen to the fact that we’re just shouting past each other,” she said. “There isn’t really a dialogue anymore, it’s more of a screaming match.”
Rubin, and College freshman Talia Rosenberg, another one of the group’s leaders, are optimistic about Common Party’s success on campus.
“I think everyone has it within them to have this kind of respectful discourse if in the right environment and given the right tools,” Rosenberg said. “So I think Common Party’s goal is to give those tools and create that environment.”
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