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Libertarian-slanted club starts at university

Young Americans for Liberty chapter welcomes all

Brennan+Burke%2C+Junior+SAEM+major%2C+is+the+head+of+the+Young+Americans+for+Liberty+at+Point+Park.
Brennan Burke, Junior SAEM major, is the head of the Young Americans for Liberty at Point Park.

Brennan Burke, Junior SAEM major, is the head of the Young Americans for Liberty at Point Park.

Photo by Allison Hritz

Photo by Allison Hritz

Brennan Burke, Junior SAEM major, is the head of the Young Americans for Liberty at Point Park.

Written By Aidan Segal, Staff Writer

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Brennen Burke wears a baseball cap with the image of a coiled rattlesnake slithering over the bolded words, “DON’T TREAD ON ME,” an iconic symbol that dates back to the American Revolution. The back of his laptop has an assemblage of National Rifle Association and Libertarian Party stickers.

He is the face of a growing club on campus known as the Young Americans for Liberty, a local chapter of a national organization for college students that is ingrained in Libertarian values but nonetheless a nonpartisan group.

In the midst of college campuses across the nation protesting speakers and disavowing the Trump administration to great extents, this small group of students at Point Park gathers weekly to have civil political discussions.

Burke, 20, a junior sports, arts and entertainment management major, doesn’t shy away from the controversy that comes with politics. He claims to challenge both students and professors when a political discussion arises in the classroom.

The hostility students face, primarily right-leaning as Burke sees it, are a result of coming off a gritty election.

“I understand how the freshmen feel how polarizing it is because they just started college after an election year, a very hard, difficult election year,” Burke said.

The Libertarian Party is a young one in contrast to the dominant two-party system, founded 45 years ago. Borrowing values from both Democrats and Republicans, the party’s candidate musters just enough support to appear on the ballot each election, that being Gary Johnson in the case of the past two elections.

With that being said, Burke claims to receive mistreatment for his political views, as well as other right-leaning students since the election of President Trump.

Although not a Trump supporter, but rather voting third party, Burke still disapproves of what he calls political correctness, regarding students who exclaim “not my president” in protest to the current administration, a slogan challenging the president’s legitimacy preceding his victory.

“People that refer to him as ‘he who must not be named,’ he is not Voldemort,” Burke said. “He is the president of the United States. As much as you don’t want to admit that, he is. It is not just Point Park, I think it is a lot of universities as a whole kinda cater to this single-mindedness and echo-chamber effect.”

Alex McDannell, 20, a junior, has been a member of Young Americans for Liberty for about four months despite avoiding politics for most of his life.

Politically, McDannell is an Independent, and he believes that Young Americans for Liberty, being a non-partisan club, has provided an outlet for students of all backgrounds.

“Young Americans for Liberty is not what most people think,” McDannell said. “We do not affiliate ourselves with a specific party. We are in the middle and are here to just talk.”

He says this in praise of the club’s leader for starting a chapter at Point Park and for sticking with it in this divided political climate.

“Brennen is great. He has done so much to get this club on its feet and moving,” McDannell said. “I’d say we’ve made excellent progress in the club and we are still doing it.”

Nickolas Kardos, 21, a senior, joined the club this year and politically, he falls right down the middle. He likes being able to engage in politics with other students, but says the club suffers from either lack of interest or scheduling conflicts.

“There haven’t been too many large meetings to do too many discussions, but the couple of times there have,” Kardos said. “Brennen would usually bring up a topic and we’d discuss it for a little bit.”

Kardos does applaud Burke’s work ethic to get the chapter moving along and credits him for having activities on campus.

“He’s been doing a really good job at promoting the club, and getting the word out there,” Kardos said. “He’s done a couple events that really started to get people’s attention.”

Burke mentioned a controversial name that he would like to bring to Point Park, although he fears that there would be too much backlash.

Conservative journalist and editor of “The Daily Wire,” Ben Shapiro is renowned for his college campus appearances where he  takes on all comers, debating anything that comes his way. Burke seeks the same thing for Point Park: an environment to grind out the country’s biggest topics with nothing but respect.

He has next semester and then next year to stabilize a club with set goals, political acceptance and of course liberty, before he graduates.

“Hopefully as the club takes off, gains more membership, gets more publicity, becoming a bigger voice on campus, it will encourage other groups of people to start their own clubs and come out and debate,” Burke said. “I welcome that. I would love to see a young democrats group…even a young communists group, as confused as they may be.”

McDannell has faith in the club and he encourages everyone to join.

“We are all Americans. It doesn’t matter what your race is, what your sex is, what your religion is or what your gender is, ‘YAL’ is here to bring us together and preserve liberty,” McDannell said.

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