8 UIS Students Who Live Bipartisanship

Longer statements of the six presidents

There wasn’t enough room in the op-ed column to provide the longer statements made by the six UIS student leaders. Here are the complete statements:

Ryan Melchin

The most important life lesson I took away from living with Matt [Van Vossen] is that politics does not have to be personal. Matt and I disagreed on most of the important issues of the day but never took our disagreements too seriously or personally. The biggest problem, from my perspective, with Washington over the last 10 years has been no civility. The way former President Bush was treated by his political opponents and the way President Obama is treated by his is a disturbing trend. Matt and I had our share of debates during the time we lived together, but we never allowed them to get to the point where we did not respect each other’s point of view (even though he was wrong on most of the issues 🙂 ). I am glad to see this becoming a tradition at UIS and only hope it can be used to affect positive change in Springfield and Washington.


Sean Miller

Living with a roommate from the opposite party [Zach Watkins] has taught me that civility is not impossible in politics, nor is coming to a compromise. Too often in politics there is a divisiveness among people that fosters an “us versus them” mentality and never between the two shall meet. While this mentality might work in choosing teams in a sports rivalry, it is unsustainable in politics. Living with Zach has taught me that in order for people to work together and to get things done, we need to put aside the petty differences in our politics; something that is lacking in many levels of government.


Marc Reiter

Tolerance of another individual’s viewpoints, especially political ones, is a concept that has seemingly drifted off into space in the halls of Congress. However, in the hallways of campus housing at UIS, the acceptance of differing considerations on policy issues creates the capacity for both mutual respect and exciting discussion between roommates to occur over policy discourses. Living across the hallway from [Jeff Wilhite] the President of the College Republicans at UIS is an example of an arrangement that grows the kind of respect that allows individuals to not just work together, but to become lifelong friends. Putting aside political differences for the advancement of mutual goals for both the College Republicans and College Democrats is, well, mutually beneficial. Washington could learn a lesson in civility from individuals a third their seniority, yet three times more politically tolerant.


Matt Van Vossen

Bipartisanship is about admitting a good idea when you hear it regardless of who said it. It requires an open mind, rather than a closed one. If you discredit an idea simply because of party affiliation, religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other irrelevant classification, then odds are your views will never change regardless of reality or changing circumstances. It requires very little confidence of character for a person to stand by their own views; it requires a lot more confidence to evolve them.


Zach Watkins

Living with Sean [Miller] opened my eyes to the basis of alternate solutions and the value of cooperation.  Obviously, we have differences on any number of political issues and their subsequent solutions, but contrary to the current political climate, those differences do not always have to be a point of contention.  When Sean and I lived in the same house and had political discussions I gained a greater understanding of the circumstances that drive political viewpoints and solutions opposite of my own.  Every issue has at least two sides, and recognizing the basis of an alternate viewpoint leads to a better understanding of the whole picture.  Oftentimes doing so enabled me to see where we had unexpected common interests and encouraged me to work with the Democrats towards those mutual goals.  Ultimately, Sean and I had many political issues where we disagreed, but living in the same house sometimes exposed me to surprising common goals where we could work together for the greater good.


Jeff Wilhite

The greatest life lessons that I have learned from living with Marc [Reiter] is to be willing to get to know somebody even if they are different from you and focus more on what two people can agree with. My first college class was with Marc, and quickly we learned that we were two very different people with political ideologies far apart. Throughout the past three years I have learned from Marc why he and many other Democrats have the views and morals  shown in their policies. But, more important than their views on policy, quickly I leaned that there is much more to a person than his/her political views. Marc and I have a lot in common outside of politics that makes us great friends. Instead of bickering about differences, we find things to do and talk about that we both enjoy. By putting politics aside when possible and finding common ground, I believe that I have a found a friendship that will not only last through college but far into the future.

Where are they now?

  • Ryan Melchin is on staff with the Illinois House Republicans in Springfield.
  • Sean Miller attends St. Louis University Law School.
  • Matt Van Vossen attends John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
  • Zach Watkins attends Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Va.