CRA’s St. Mary CRs Help Organize Blowout Inaugural Event with Riley Gaines

February 22, 2024
Dominick Buehler

CRA’s most recent charter in Indiana, the St. Mary’s College Republicans (SMCR), made waves last Friday by helping put on a speaking event featuring record-setting swimmer and outspoken pro-woman activist Riley Gaines to their home city of Notre Dame.

Despite being chartered with CRA less than two months ago and having no previous events, the SMCRs drew in hundreds of attendees from all across the state, a record for any conservative event at St. Mary’s. 

Claire Bettag, the President of the St. Mary’s College Republicans, said the campus was eager to hear Gaines speak. 

“We had over 250+ people attend. Tons of returning alumnae, parents, and Notre Dame students flew in, but I was thrilled to see that the majority of the room was filled with Saint Mary’s girls,” she explained.

Advertising efforts by the club even inspired the early dismissal of student-athletes by coaches, just to attend Gaines’s talk. “I was ecstatic to hear that many of the sports team coaches at Saint Mary’s either called off practice or ended it early so that the athletes could attend Riley’s talk,” Bettag said. “They told their athletes that, regardless of your political affiliation, this talk is crucial to attend as this is a major issue in women’s sports today.”

The Indiana State College Republicans, affiliated with the declining National Federation of College Republicans, had just two weeks earlier attacked St. Mary’s after it decided to charter with CRA. “Congrats on picking up a club that nobody in the state of Indiana has ever heard of,” the official Indiana CR’s jabbed on Twitter, “It’s not like you guys would just make this stuff up, right?”

Tween from Indiana Federation Towards CRA

Bettag and her club’s efforts, however, proved that any doubt of CRA and St. Mary’s was utterly mistaken.

The event was originally going to be hosted on Notre Dame University’s Campus, but, after university administrators blocked funding and a venue by the school, it sat in limbo. In response, St. Mary’s College Republicans pressed on, receiving aid with venue and funding from outside sources. The club’s aforementioned advertising efforts and administrative support helped to quell all of the Leadership Institute’s concerns with the change.

Vice President Macy Gunnell said the young club was emboldened by its excellent performance at the Gaines event and planned to work with CRA to bring a series of high-level speakers to campus in the near future.

“We’re looking forward to bringing conservative, America-loving speakers and events in an attempt to contribute to the revival of beloved American values, both on campus and within the movement of America’s younger generations,” Vice President Gunnell said. “Huge shoutout to President Will Donahue for his help and support as we continue the fight for the restoration of traditional conservative values at Saint Mary’s!”

President Bettag said that Gaines and gender issues were particularly important to her and the all-woman student body of St. Mary’s College, especially after college administrators unveiled (and quickly reversed) a controversial pro-transgender admission policy last November.

“I want to thank Riley for bringing awareness to this issue as many of the women at St. Mary’s were terrified that they would be forced to room with men when the transgender enrollment policy was released,” Bettag said. “I wasn’t surprised that Saint Mary’s administration weren’t in attendance… these are women at the college who label themselves as “feminists” but won’t show up to support the strongest of them all.”

Just over a month into its existence, the St. Mary Chapter has become a key partner in CRA’s Indiana efforts and a leading example for College Republican chapters nationwide. Having passed their first test with flying colors, the St. Mary College Republicans President and Vice President said they were ready to fight and win the culture war on campus. 

“We’ve had to be brave and put our names out there against our college’s administration, but the fight has been so well worth it. We have been able to win in what is seemingly a David vs Goliath battle,” Vice President Gunnell remarked.

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