“There’s not many young conservative voices to look up to.”
Gerrin Alexander discusses why she founded the publication, as well as her experiences with free speech on campus as both a conservative and a woman of color.
Gerrin Alexander, co-founder of the Chicago Thinker, a student-run, conservative and libertarian publication from the University of Chicago.
GERRIN ALEXANDER: I still get messages from people to this day saying, “Thank you for standing up for your beliefs and being a voice out here.” There’s not many conservative voices to look up to, especially young voices.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Today, I’m joined by our guest, Gerrin Alexander. Gerrin, tell us about yourself.
GERRIN ALEXANDER: Hi, I’m a recent graduate of University of Chicago. I have a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and one in Public Policy, and I’m here today representing the Chicago Thinker, which is UChicago’s first student-run, independent, conservative, and libertarian voices newspaper at the school.
So yes, I was the former senior editor but as an alumni now, I’m currently just an alumni advisor. But I can still say I was on the founding editorial board.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Why do you think the First Amendment is important?
GERRIN ALEXANDER: It’s to ensure and protect individual rights. When we think about how the founders wrote it out in their time period, it was a division between natural rights and positive rights.
Natural rights are things that I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory, come natural to the person without government intervention, right? So thinking of speaking, writing, praying.
Then when we think about positive rights, we’re thinking of those things that do require that governmental authority to be in place. Things like trial by jury, et cetera.
I think there’s a clear distinction between the two and nowadays, we kind of lack that distinction. I think much of the focus needs to go back historically and just for us to think about what it is exactly that the writers or the founders were implementing and what it is that they wanted. And I feel like we’ve kind of lost touch of that.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: In your opinion, what is the current status of free speech and academic freedom on college campuses today?
GERRIN ALEXANDER: Right. As an alumni, I can speak from my own experience and say that at the university, it’s this curriculum that we’re learning is heavily skewed towards leftists, and I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, but having the option of having conservative skewed courses, just things that I can also feel like I can participate in myself, and not feel outed and cast, if like it slipped out that I was conservative or something.
And then also on top of that being a minority at a predominantly white and Asian institution, specifically as a black woman, also affected me in how I communicated with others. But at times, I’m not going to lie, there were times where I felt like, “Oh, I have to be careful
about what I say, when I say it, and who I say it to.” And I don’t think that is something that should be on campuses.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: You mentioned you’re on the founding editorial board of a news site, for those who may not know, called the Chicago Thinker. Can you tell us about that, what it is, and why you helped found it?
GERRIN ALEXANDER: So, my friends Evita Duffy and Audrey Unverferth messaged me. Audrey sent a message saying, “Hey, I want to start a newspaper and I was like, oh my gosh, especially now, we need to hear conservative voices. I still get messages from people this to this day saying like, “Thank you for standing up for your beliefs and being a voice out
here.” There’s not many conservative voices to look up to, especially young voices.
When I got the message from Audrey, I was like, “Of course I’ll join” and I was the only senior on the editorial board. So a lot of our group is very young in there. I guess it was a great way to get engaged with the younger population to see where UChicago can go in terms of like conservative.
I hopped on it because I was going through a rough time specifically in a personal life situation in terms of friends, because I lost a lot of friends for the 2020 election, and I lost a lot of friends because of my non-support for BLM as an organization itself.
So I was like you know what? Let me do something that’s going to empower myself and then empower other people to step forward.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Do you think censorship is an issue in the United States. Why?
GERRIN ALEXANDER: Oh yes. Definitely. Specifically in terms of big tech companies.
These big tech companies silencing voices, blacklisting those things on Google in terms of like the websites that pop up when you want to type in something to get more information, whether it’s like news or politics e tcetera.
Just now being able to see those sources that can allow people to think for themselves and that’s most important. I don’t care if you’re the opposite view. For me, I just want you to think
for yourself and then also I want you to read both sides.
Like learn. Do the research for yourself and when we’re prevented that opportunity as individuals, that impacts how we think intellectually and how we interact with other people as well.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: How do you use your First Amendment freedoms in your everyday life?
GERRIN ALEXANDER: I guess I can speak to more of a sense of religion and expression. I identify myself as a Christian. That is the very foundation of my being, my faith, and that comes from my environment and my household, growing up in a Christian household.
In terms of expression, well I lost friends on campus during school. I lost friends after school et cetera, just because of being able to stand my ground.
I think anytime we engage in political discourse it should always be about what are the facts of the matter and understanding people’s viewpoints on how they took that evidence and argue it. Not attacking your character for believing something.
And a lot of times I found myself in that situation. So just continuing to remind myself like now, and I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t stand true to my identity and to what I believe in, my faith.
MAXWELL NOSBISCH: Well thank you so much. We appreciate having you and taking the time to talk to us.
GERRIN ALEXANDER: Of course. Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure