Conservative student finds place as Mizzou College Republicans president

Grissum plans to graduate early this year and hopes Mizzou College Republicans will act as a watchdog for the new majority-Democrat government in the future.

By Emma Lingo

The Republican Party did not come out on top in the 2020 general elections. After losing the presidency and Senate majority, the party is organizing for midterms and the next 2024 presidential race. Claire Grissum, president of Mizzou College Republicans, said there isn’t much for Mizzou Republicans to do other than be vigilant.

“We’re going to continue being a watchdog for the government run now by the opposing party,” Grissum said. “We want to make sure everything being done is constitutional and fair.”

Grissum is a political science major with a minor in criminal and juvenile justice. She’s graduating early this year, in just three years, after the pandemic made her realize she wanted to be in law school as soon as possible. Grissum started 2020 by working for the legislative director as an intern at the Missouri Department of Public Safety. COVID-19 brought a quick end to the program and she had time to sit and think about what she wanted.

“I always said I’d end up in politics, but after this election year I’m a little worn out,” Grissum said. “I’m aiming to be an attorney, but I could always see myself coming back to politics.”

During her time at MU, Grissum held various leadership positions in her sorority, Kappa Delta, and also acted as director of Internal Communications for the Missouri Students Association.

MUCR was the most important part of her college experience, Grissum said, but these other organizations allowed her to interact with people of differing ideologies and become more secure in her own beliefs.

When she came to MU, Grissum said she expected to find a campus full of liberal students. Although Missouri is a consistently red state, Grissum knows college campuses tend to be more left-leaning. She did find a liberal campus, but she also found a home at MUCR where her like-minded peers gave her a place to explore her opinions.

“When it came to my values I always asked myself, ‘is this how I was raised or is this how I actually think?’” Grissum said. “[MUCR] reaffirmed my values and I know where I stand.”

At MUCR, Grissum said the club members often vent to each other and express frustrations they feel they can’t publicly air. Biden’s victory made many members nervous, and recently they’ve been talking about how they’re going to stay active. Most members worked with campaigns or volunteered with politicians during campaign season, but now they have to find a way to stay productive at a time where their party doesn’t have much national control, Grissum said.

MUCR vice president and Grissum’s friend, Grace Renfer, wants to continue preaching conservative ideas after her experiences at her previous college.

“A trend across the country – and on our college campus – is that conservative voices, independent voices and libertarian voices are getting shut down or labeled as hateful,” Renfer said.

Both leaders said there are social repercussions for being openly Republican or right-leaning on a college campus and in general. Grissum and Renfer said many members have stories of being berated in class. Grissum herself had an disagreement with a teacher at her old high school over her values. An important aspect of MUCR for both women said it creates a safe place for members to share their views.

“For the most part people respect me and my views,” Grissum said. “But there have been too many stories of members being shamed for their beliefs.”

The club’s leading duo are working together to keep members busy during the pandemic. Twenty in-person seats are offered for those who sign up for their meetings and everyone else is welcome to tune in via Zoom. By leading the club through a pandemic and introducing its first all-female leadership team, Grissum and Renfer are a historic pair for the organization.

“It’s like we’re madam president and madam vice president,” Renfer said. “It feels good to have female voices represented, especially in conservative organizations. It’s important our party hears us.”

After Grissum graduates, Renfer will keep on with the organization and help it expand. Grissum said she holds her time with MUCR close to her heart and she can’t wait to see what they do when she’s gone.

MUCR isn’t the only organization sad to see Grissum gone. Her sorority sisters at Kappa Delta will miss her as well. Rachel Delgado, her roommate, friend and sorority sister, said she’s watched Grissum grow into a strong woman throughout college, who’s accepting of all beliefs and has a solid work ethic.

“I adore her,” Delgado said. “Whenever I need her I know I can go into her room and lay in her bed with her to talk. I enjoy her company and knowing we’re just there for each other. She’s my person, for sure.”

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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