Thursday, January 19, 2012

UIS Democrat and Republican leaders live together... again!

Bipartisanship can be hard to find, but at the University of Illinois Springfield all you have to do is look under the same roof!

For the second year in a row, the chairman of the College Republicans and president of the College Democrats live in the same townhouse, but that’s not all. The secretaries of both organizations are also roommates. They live only feet away from each other in Lincoln Residence Hall.

For Zach Watkins, the Republican chairman and Sean Miller, the Democratic president it seems like fate brought them together.

“Housing magically put us both together and put Sean and I upstairs together and I think it was in the first week we found out we were both into politics and on the opposite sides,” said Watkins.

“We came home after our meetings to elect new officers and I say I’m the president of the College Democrats and he says I’m the chairman of the College Republicans. So that was an interesting night,” said Miller.

While they try and avoid talking about politics at home, they admit it comes up. That has led to a few interesting living room debates.

“Last year during the governor’s race there was a (Bill) Brady commercial that came on and I said a couple of comments and Zach had a few comments to say too, so after about 5 minutes worth of debate we were just like, ok well time to do the dishes,” said Miller.

“Politics is very polarizing, but I think something that’s caused problems in America is that the politics are so polarizing and both sides refuse to find a common ground, so living together you kind of have to do the opposite and find the common ground to move forward,” said Watkins.

The two secretaries also admit to talking politics, but they would not have any other way. They actually chose to live together after meeting at freshmen orientation.

“We talk about all sorts of things and I think it’s because we’re very passionate about what we believe and at least once a day something comes up and we’ll talk about it whether it may be something congress just legislated on or something in the Illinois community,” said Andrea Carlson, the College Republicans secretary.

“I wouldn’t want somebody who agrees with me all the time and it makes for a more interesting living arrangement. A lot of our classes even make it applicable to life, so when we talk about certain assignments sometimes it comes up,” said Michelle Tuma, the College Democrats secretary.

While it might not always be easy to live in a dorm room divided, it does have its advantages. The groups have been able to cross party lines to co-sponsor events.

“We’ve done a volleyball match. Republicans won, by the way. We did a spaghetti dinner that some of the democrats came with us,” said Watkins.

“I can just lean out my door and say ‘Hey Zach you want to do this,’ rather than having to send him an email,” said Miller.

So why is there so much bipartisanship at UIS? That’s an easy question for both parties.

“I think because of the fact that we are in Springfield and a lot of people do come here because of the political science program… you’ll probably have higher instances of that happening here,” said Carlson.

“I feel like a lot of the kids who are involved in politics here at UIS, we all get along and we’re all in model Illinois government a lot of us, so we all hang out and it’s just really nice,” said Tuma.

All four agree that professional politicians could learn a few things from their living arrangement, but doubt it would go as smoothly.

“It’s definitely a lesson that you can learn. If you see that you’re working to a common goal. All of us are working towards a common goal, which is our education. You can look past our petty differences and things that have happened in the past to forward that one goal,” said Miller.

Last year, the previous College Republican President Ryan Melchin and Democratic President Matt Van Vossen also lived together in a townhouse on campus. Watch our past coverage of their story!

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