Minnesota College Republicans reject private control of private religious institution


The Republican Party is changing. First it was the Emo Senator breaking ranks with the Borg by supporting local decision-making on school levies.

Now College Republicans want students to defy a decision made by a private religious college. In College Republicans protest water bottle ban, the Strib’s Jenn Ross reports:

College Republicans passed out bottled water to passers-by Tuesday in protest of the College of St. Benedict’s new ban on bottled water in campus vending machines, cafeterias and sporting events. The protesters said they aren’t against sustainability but are defending the free-market system.

“Just as the government should not ban plastic bottles in America, a school administration should not ban the sale of plastic water bottles on their campus,” said Ryan Lyk, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, in a statement.

This fall, St. Ben’s became the first school in the state — and the ninth in the nation — to ban the sale of plain bottled water on campus. Macalester took a similar step Sept. 1.

Students can buy bottled water off campus and bring it to class.

The protesters’ release points out that St. Ben’s 31 new “hydration stations” cost money to install. The college spent $20,000 on them, hoping to make it easier for students to refill reusable water bottles. In the long run, college officials said, they expect the ban to save money.

But that expense is just one part of the problem, said Kate Paul, a St. Ben’s student and a Minnesota College Republicans leader. Her statement: “The hydration stations not only cost us money to use, they are costing us our ability to choose and convenience that derives from choice.”

This is a stunning show of support not for the free market, but for consumer rights. St. Ben’s is a private college founded by the Benedictine orders, known for moderation and hospitality. But the fifth chapter of Rule of Benedict concerns cheerful obedience to leadership, while the students are looking simply to service their own wants.

Moreover, the students seem to be a bit confused by their chosen analogy, which equates the private college’s administration with government. Should they really wish to follow the free market arguments which appear to be so dear to their tender young hearts, the little darlings will recall the advice given to workers who wish to organize their workplaces.

That logic suggests that those who don’t like working conditions or work rules have the choice to find a new job elsewhere. Likewise, in the free market of education, if students don’t like the rules, they can simply go elsewhere if they don’t approve of the private school’s decision about an investment that it believes will in the long run cut costs.

Bluestem will keep our eyes up to see if the College Republicans will begin to approach Wells Fargo or Cargill with protests about how those private entities decide to spend their money or limit consumer options.

Or maybe this really is about College Republicans not liking sustainability, rather than sticking it to the private religious institution in the name of consumer choice.

Photo: water bottles in a landfill, the most awesomest manifestation of the free market ever.