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College Republicans host Board of Visitors member Frank Atkinson

Atkinson, College Republicans discuss factionalization, presidential candidates

<p>Board of Visitors member Frank Atkinson spoke at a College Republican meeting Tuesday.</p>

Board of Visitors member Frank Atkinson spoke at a College Republican meeting Tuesday.

The University College Republicans hosted guest speaker Frank Atkinson Tuesday. Atkinson is a member of the Board of Visitors and chairman of McGuireWoods Consulting LLC.

Atkinson is also the author of two books on contemporary Virginian politics, “The Dynamic Dominion” and “Virginia in the Vanguard,” published in 1991 and 2006, respectively. Previously, he served in the Department of Justice under Ronald Reagan and more recently as legal counsel and the policy director for the former Virginia Gov. George Allen.

Atkinson began the guest lecture by expressing his support of youth involvement in conservative politics.

“Let me say to you how much I am encouraged by all your work and how active you are in College Republicans,” Atkinson said to members. “I’m really a big believer that folks need to get involved and give back.”

Atkinson then promoted a dialogue on prominent issues members believe need addressing within the Republican Party as well as overarching concerns regarding the University in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Members responded by identifying the current disparity among factions within the Republican party, the alienation of various minorities, the debate over the existence of climate change and LGBTQ rights as several key dilemmas facing the party.

Atkinson reiterated that Republicans have largely factionalized in recent years.

“It can be a frustrating time to be involved,” Atkinson said. “There has been a dichotomy with various factions for at least the whole post-war period and last half of the twentieth century. Division in a party isn’t new. It’s inevitable in any growing organization.”

Atkinson also asked members to share what specifically has driven them to participate in the organization and underlying values they share with the Republican party. Responses centered largely on conservative economics, foreign policy and social issues.

Atkinson offered his take on foreign affairs specifically.

“During the Reagan Era, foreign policy was the glue that held everything together,” Atkinson said. “Since that time, the international situation we’re dealing with is much more fragmented.”

Atkinson also inquired about members’ support for potential Republican party nominees for president. Support varied among potential candidates Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Regardless of the individual chosen to represent the Republican party, Atkinson expressed optimism for the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

“Someone will emerge out of this process and come out on top to unite the Republican party,” Atkinson said. “Whoever captures the nomination in 2016 is likely to win the election.”

The second half of Atkinson’s guest lecture centered on topics relevant to the Board of Visitors. Atkinson focused on the student reaction to the University’s handling of sexual assault policy since the Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article detailing the gang rape of a University student occurring in 2012.

Although Rolling Stone retracted support for the article shortly after publication, the University is still grappling with how to change sexual assault policies.

“I do think on this is would be a big mistake to turn the corner and say this isn’t on us,” Atkinson said. “It really produced some deep feeling and stress. There's a natural human temptation or tendency to take difficult issues and say we’ve come through the worst of that, let’s think about something else.”

Atkinson also commented on the lingering effects of the article on University life and how the Charlottesville community has been represented.

“Students had most thoughtful responses when this all broke out,” Atkinson said. “It showed how the culture of student leadership here distinguishes U.Va. from most any other place.”

Atkinson mentioned the Board is anxiously awaiting the results of an independent investigation of the incident conducted by O’Melveny and Myers.

“Even though the spotlight is off, we’re all eager to get a report back to review what happened in the fall and how it was handled,” Atkinson said. “We initiated the report — not the Attorney General or the governor.”

Whether in politics or University affairs, Atkinson stressed to members the need for active student involvement.