Students of ‘solid earth’ reflect on conservatism

GVL / Andrea Baker
Terra Firma Society for Tradionalists meeting

Andrea Baker

GVL / Andrea Baker Terra Firma Society for Tradionalists meeting

Rachel Melke

Six Grand Valley State University students and one professor gather every week to bring themselves down to Earth.

The group, which calls itself the Terra Firma Society for Traditionalists, started in 2008 as the Spes Bona Society after the election of President Barack Obama, which led to talk of the death of modern conservatism.

The club derives its name from a Latin phrase meaning “solid earth.”

“Students did not just want to be part of the knee-jerk right-wing reaction, but they wanted to think more deeply about human culture and economics and government,” said professor Benjamin Lockerd, the group’s faculty adviser.

Nick Cousino, Terra Firma’s president, joined winter semester when the group only consisted of Lockerd and a graduate student.

They met weekly, discussing George Nash’s book “Reappraising the Right,” a book about the past and future of American conservatism.

Cousino enjoyed the meetings and saw an opportunity for growth. During the summer, he met other students who were also interested and helped him to reform the group.

With change came the new name.

“We wanted a new name to signify the new chapter in our history, and ‘terra firma’ seemed to capture the nature of our society,” Cousino said.

Cousino said Terra Firma is not a philosophy club that asks essentially answerless questions; rather, it is a group of students who seek the truth upon which they can stand.

In addition to this new meaning of the group, they also decided to add “for Traditionalists” to further convey the nature of the group.

This year, the group’s focus is based on a quote by G. K. Chesterton: “The tremendous examination of existence will not be based on whether we have been to college, but on whether we seriously, yet in good humor, confronted in our lives the highest things.”

Along with this, the group has read sections of F. A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” Russell Kirk’s “The Idea of Conservatism,” and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard address.

“I think the broader range of topics will allow members with different interests a chance to discover a writer they really enjoy,” Cousino said.

In addition to discussion and reading, Terra Firma also hosts guest speakers, typically GVSU professors.

Lockerd said would like also to bring outside conservative speakers to GVSU to bring interest from other student organizations on campus.

“Perhaps they will awaken the many students on campus who have solid views of life and they will be able collectively to challenge some of the crazy ideas they are presented with at GVSU,” Lockerd said.

Terra Firma is also involved with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and attends their events throughout the year.

“Terra Firma probably isn’t for everyone, but we all have a great time,” Cousino said. “The world we live in today is so caught up in the moment and in constantly being distracted, it is nice to meet once a week to reflect on what is really important in life.”

Terra Firma Society for Traditionalists meets on the Pew Campus in either DeVos 202E or 302E every Thursday at 8 p.m.

For more information, contact Nick Cousino at [email protected].

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