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College Republicans stand up to bullying from student government, demand exoneration from president

‘No authority to enforce’ purported violations

The College Republicans at Amherst College are not backing down after the student government ordered their executive board to step down and release a formal apology condemning “hate speech,” following mild jokes in a private group chat.

The conservative club also disputed that any of its board members, or even active members, made the jokes in the GroupMe chat, which concerned a 40-page “Common Language Guide” sent to students by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The Amherst Association of Students and its Judiciary Council have “no authority to enforce the Amherst College Honor Code,” the CRs wrote in a Facebook message Friday that also laid out its procedural objections to a council hearing on the matter.

Though the administration said the same thing about the student government’s lack of jurisdiction in the matter, it has thus far refused to explicitly overrule the Judiciary Council.

The CRs told President Biddy Martin and Chief Student Affairs Officer Hikaru Kozuma to end the ambiguity and issue “a written statement that the April 4th JC decision is invalid and will not be enforced.”

The parties have fallen silent since Friday, and some even earlier than that.

The Judiciary Council has yet to respond to the administration’s April 10 statement that it has no authority to punish the CRs. The Amherst Association of Students did not respond to emails from The College Fix asking it to clarify that it claims the authority to derecognize a club on campus.

The CRs have not responded to Fix emails and Facebook messages asking for their plans in response to the student government action and the administration’s disparagement of their club.

MOREAmherst diversity office releases 40-page speech code

Campus newspaper cheers suppression of free speech

While the administration has affirmed that the Judiciary Council has no authority to derecognize the CRs for their speech, as the body threatened, the CRs were eager to distance the organization from the GroupMe chat.

The Common Language Guide – which was quickly rescinded by President Martin – claimed capitalism causes “exploitative labor practices” and defined assimilation as “a response to forms of oppression. It said “American Exceptionalism” was “grounded in 17th- century Puritan and Protestant religious culture” and was an example of “White Savior Complex.”

But it was the guide’s sections on gender that drew ridicule in the GroupMe chat.

Unidentified participants in the chat mocked the guide’s recommendations. One said “any sound sane person must suspend reality to believe them” and another joked about getting access to the guide by telling the Queer Resource Center “that I’m questioning my gender choice.”

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They also made jokes about “packing,” a term defined in the guide as inserting “a phallic object” into underwear “to give the appearance of having a penis” for women who identify as men.

The private messages by private figures were leaked to The Amherst Student, which published them. The newspaper’s editorial board later cheered the Judiciary Council for its zero-tolerance approach, which would have permanently banned CRs’ board members from serving on any other club’s board.

Before the chat messages were leaked and published, Brantley Mayers of the CRs talked to The Fix about the just-released Common Language Guide. He said the campus has “an atmosphere that is hostile towards Conservative thought” and that some CRs members and others “fear retribution for proclaiming their opinions.”

Group chat available to anyone who signs up for club

After they were published, Mayers told The Amherst Student that the club objected to the guide for “questioning our belief in capitalism,” so it wouldn’t question other people’s gender choices: “We will talk about it in our next meeting. Attacking someone’s identity is not acceptable.”

In their Friday statement, the CRs denounced the Judiciary Council for “condemn[ing] the entire club for the actions of two people (neither of whom had attended a single meeting this entire year).”

The club clarified to The Daily Wire that its GroupMe chat list includes more than 120 people, including those who have simply signed up to join the CRs. Only 20 to 30 are active members who show up to meetings, however.

MORE: Student government threatens to derecognize CRs for mild private jokes

A member told the Daily that it viewed the Judiciary Council decision as an attempt to kill off the CRs, because it would block most of its active members from serving in CRs leadership.

The club’s Friday statement cited “a number of issues with some procedural elements” of the Judiciary Council hearing April 4. The CRs cited the private nature of the hearing, “that the ruling applied to people not present or able to defend themselves,” and that the body failed to provide “the requisite 48 hours notice” to the defendants.

The student government fulfilled both the role of “prosecutor and judge,” which is a “clear conflict of interest,” and the ruling would cripple other student organization that include CRs board members, it said.

Mild jokes are ‘inexcusable’ and ‘still causing’ harm to students

The Fix emailed and called the administration to ask how it plans to address the situation and how it’s protecting freedom of expression on campus, given that the Judiciary Council attempted to punish a club for some participants’ private expression.

After the second call, Director of Media Communications Caroline Hanna provided the April 10 open letter from Kozuma, chief student affairs officer, which did not explicitly overrule the student government. Rather, Kozuma said: “I hope the Senate will reconsider the measures taken and the basis on which decisions were made.”

Hanna did not respond to other questions from The Fix.

Though President Martin quickly released a statement clarifying that the guide was not a “formal college document” and would not be used to police the speech of students, she also used her bully pulpit to police the speech of the two students in the GroupMe chat.

In a campuswide email, Martin failed to acknowledge the messages came from a private group chat that did not target any individual and were leaked to the student newspaper, which readily published them.

Martin wished that “those who exchanged the posts had immediately expressed regret for the hurt that the now-public posts inevitably caused and are still causing,” according to the Daily.

While denouncing the “the inexcusable behavior of some individuals in the club” – private jokes about some definitions in the guide – Martin also scolded the Judiciary Council for “condemn[ing] the entire Republican club, further escalating the situation.”

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IMAGE: Amherst College Republicans/Facebook

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About the Author
Lexi Lonas -- Penn State Altoona