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Gingrich, Other GOP Leaders to Speak for College Republicans

Sharon N. Young-Pong--The Tech
Ricardo A. Egozque '96 and Gary M. Rubman '96

By Teresa Esser
Staff Reporter

The newly-formed MIT College Republicans Club will hold its first meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in Room W20-400. Thus far, more than 100 students have indicated an interest in joining, according to Gary M. Rubman '96, one of the group's organizers.

"Our main goal is to ensure that the Republican side is heard on this campus," Rubman said. In the past, political debates at MIT have been "either one-sided or somewhat apathetic."

As one of their first projects, Rubman and co-organizer Ricardo Egozcue '96 have lined up a number of powerful GOP politicians, including Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (RGa.), to speak at the Institute over the next several months.

State Sen. Brian Lees and state Rep. Ed Teague will be the first to speak, on May 9, Rubman said. Speakers who have committed to coming to MIT but not yet set a date are: Gingrich, Massachusetts Republican Reps. Peter I. Blute and Peter G. Torkildsen, and Mitt Romney, the 1994 Massachusetts GOP senatorial candidate who lost to incumbent Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

John Sununu PhD '61, former chief of staff for President Bush, will also likely speak, but details have yet to be finalized, Rubman said.

Gingrich is "very excited" about the prospect of speaking at MIT, said Ricardo A. Egozcue '96, the group's other organizer. "We got a response from his office within a day of making the request," he said. "He got back quickly to our invitation precisely because he is a big fan of technology and economic issues."

"I would, of course, always find it appropriate for national leaders to be on our campus engaging in dialogue with students and other members of the community," said President Charles M. Vest. "MIT has a strong tradition of freedom of speech and openness of dialogue."

The purpose of the speakers is to provide a forum for debates between supporters and opponents of the "Contract with America," the GOP's new legislative agenda, Rubman said. The two students formed the group in response to the "Contract with America" protest last month, he said.

"We were disturbed by the inaccuracies and comments made in the protest," Egozcue said.

Stance on gays attacked

In addition to lecturing, the Republican visits may include events such as structured political debates, round-table discussions, and question-and-answer sessions between panelists from opposing groups, Egozcue said. "We want to give everyone a chance to speak," he said. "Republicans, Democrats, gays, lesbians, women, minorities, everybody."

Kristen K. Nummerdor, former general coordinator of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends, is concerned about the upcoming visits. "I, and many queer people of conscience, are rightly disturbed by the proposed visit of Gingrich and company," Nummerdor said.

"While Egozcue and other Republicans talk about wanting to hear all sides of the story, the reality is that, for the most part, the Republican agenda and party line has been and continues to be anti-gay," Nummerdor said. "It is ironic that Egozcue insists on hearing queer voices, when there are Republican sponsored bills cropping up all over the nation which seek to deny government funding for any organization which even mentions homosexuality in any fashion."

Although Egozcue promised that "everyone will get a chance to speak," Nummerdor questioned whether any non-Republican viewpoints would actually be represented. "It is difficult to imagine debating Newt Gingrich about queer issues and getting anywhere - it gets a little tiresome when the underlying theme of the debate is do gays even deserve rights in the first place?'"

"As a queer person with a conscience, I am pretty disappointed about this lecture series, and frankly insulted at Egozcue's assumption that he thinks he and his demagogues can ride in on a horse and make all our voices heard," Nummerdor said. "We have been speaking all along, and the Republicans have shown time and again that they don't listen and that they don't give a flying fish," she said. "What makes Egozcue and his cadre think it will be different now?"

Also in the works is an event featuring several leading women Republicans from the area, Rubman said. Egozcue and Rubman are currently working to invite all of the GOP presidential candidates to speak at the Institute next fall.