The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Students react to Mock Con speakers

Donald Trump Jr., Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens are all part of the lineup
Photos courtesy of Wiki Commons

Major headliners for Mock Convention 2024 include current and former governors and former President Donald Trump’s son. Also among the ranks are two conservative commentators, Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk, who have spent some of their recent careers slamming transgender people and higher education.

Some students appreciate the high-profile names coming to campus. But marginalized and liberal students are wary of the most far-right names on the lineup, who they see as espousing bigoted viewpoints.

The speakers will be split into four sessions across the two days of Mock Convention. Here’s the full schedule:

The full schedule of Mock Convention 2024 speakers. Photo courtesy of Mock Convention

P.T. Meadors, ’24, was initially excited to be a delegate in one of the university’s most cherished traditions. And he expected to see politicians he disagrees with on the list.

“Glenn Youngkin wasn’t a surprise. When I just saw the headline [with Youngkin, Kemp and Trump Jr.] I was like, ‘Those are boilerplate Republicans,’” Meadors said. “My biggest issue is with Candace Owens. I don’t know if there’s educational value in hearing her speak.”

In June 2023, YouTube demonetized videos from Owens that deliberately misgendered transgender individuals, which YouTube said violated its policies on hateful and derogatory content, according to NBC News.

“As a queer person on this campus, seeing a lot of the people they’re bringing to campus having espoused openly anti-LGBTQ views, it made the convention seem like a not super welcoming place,” Meadors said.

Meadors noted that Mock Con emphasizes its near-100% student engagement. But, he said, “including someone who is very similar to Matt Walsh is not in line with that goal.”

Conservative and anti-transgender commentator Matt Walsh came to campus in September. In response, the LGBTQ+ Resource Center and queer student groups offered counter-programming the night of his visit.

The university has not announced any counter-programming for students who feel uncomfortable with any of the speakers. While Meadors at first wanted to lead the charge to offer counter-programming, he said he’ll instead be leaving town to avoid pressure to attend the event.

The speaker lineup is “overwhelmingly fueled by hate,” said Adam Chin, ’24, a member of the executive team for College Democrats.

Mock Convention’s Director of Communications Anna Connolly, ’25, said the non-partisan organization’s goal is to “fully and realistically represent the Republican Party in its current and future forms.” That means inviting people like Owens and Kirk, who hold sway in the party, she said.

“We want this to be presented as a forum for people to start the conversations, even if they’re conversations about how they disagree with the speaker’s beliefs,” Speakers Chair Madison McGinley said. “That’s the whole goal of it, is that these speakers come and we talk about them.”

Meg Liwag, ’27, said she is excited to see such big names coming to a small school like Washington and Lee.

“I think they got a lot more big names this year, so it’ll be interesting to see the school’s reaction,” Liwag said.

Other first-years said they were impressed that Mock Convention managed to draw people who represent the face of the current Republican Party, even if they are not well liked.

“I think for the purpose of us doing a Republican primary, it’s a very reasonable choice,” Kallie Tompkins, ’27, said.

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