• Collegian staff

ASWU resolves to disaffiliate College Republicans; 9 yeas, 0 nays, 4 abstentions

Updated: Oct 27

Kathleen Forrest, Editor-in-Chief

Emma Innes, News Editor

Chrissy Ewald, Staff Writer

Melissa Baskin, Staff Writer


Photo taken during the Oct. 21 ASWU meeting. Photo by Melissa Baskin

Disclaimer:

This story is the first of many regarding the disaffiliation from ASWU of the organization College Republicans, due to the events of a meeting they held and speaker they hosted on Tuesday, Oct. 19. This article is specifically a summary of the largest portion of the ASWU meeting held on Thursday, Oct. 21 that pertains directly to the disaffiliation of College Republicans from ASWU. This portion of the meeting started around 7 p.m. and lasted approximately an hour and a half.


One of the people referenced at length in this piece is Inéz Nieves, who is both an ASWU senator and an opinions writer for The Collegian. Nieves was not consulted for nor involved with any aspect of the article beyond the information and comments provided during the meeting.


Some students spoke without identifying themselves and that choice has been taken into consideration, and some who did speak and identify themselves later asked for anonymity for safety reasons which has been granted. People who only identified themselves using their first name have been referred to as such, class year has been included where possible and pronouns have been recorded when given.


On Thursday, Oct. 21 the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) held their weekly meeting with an item on the agenda of pressing interest to the student body. Earlier that week, on Tuesday, Oct. 19, the student organization College Republicans had hosted Ray Hacke from the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) as a speaker. The PJI is classified by the [Southern Poverty Law Center] as a “hate group”. This particular meeting is the subject of another Collegian article that will be linked [here] when published. This speaker and the content of the meeting caused concern, as evidenced by an unprecedented number of students who attended the ASWU meeting. By 7 p.m. the crowd was so large that it exceeded the capacity of the room, so students gathered at the doors and milled in the hallway as they waited to hear. Approximately 120 students came to the meeting to voice their concerns and show support for the resolution, many of whom seemed to have heard about it through social media or word of mouth.


The meeting opened with standard ASWU procedures such as call to order, roll call, and the approval of the agenda. Following this, the floor was opened to public comment, which had been moved up from the bottom of the agenda. This section lasted roughly 38 minutes. Throughout these public comments (not mentioned each time in this summary) were snaps, claps and raps on the tables to indicate agreement. Many people also spoke to affirm or emphasize points that had been raised, and for the sake of clarity the summary has been limited to new concepts as they were introduced into the discussion. The students present also made reference to those who could not attend but who still wished to be heard in spirit. The first student speaker, identified as Maya, said they feel unsafe on campus and called on ASWU to disaffiliate College Republicans. This was followed by a student who identified themselves but requested and was granted anonymity from The Collegian following the meeting due to exceptional safety concerns. The anonymous student identified themself as a “proud queer and trans Jew” who had family who were killed in the Holocaust. A quote of particular note that gained support for this student was, “our community is only as safe as our most vulnerable member”. They closed their statement by saying, “מיר וועלן זיי איברלעבען איברלעבען איברלעבען (mir veln zey iberlebn), we will outlive them”.


A student identified as ‘Forrest’ spoke next, citing specific content concerns regarding the speech. This included comparisons between masks during the pandemic and the Star of David during the Holocaust, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Adolf Hitler, etc. They also referenced former senator Zeke Druker (‘24), who was referenced and further discussed by other speakers. They specifically referenced concerns that Druker had raised when on the senate about antisemitism, although the handling of those concerns resulted in Druker’s removal as a senator. Next spoke a student identified as Remy who was acting as proxy for Senator Colby Alexander, one of the senators who had put forth the resolution (Alexander joined the meeting later), but stressed that they spoke for themselves in this public comment. They shared their concerns for their safety as someone who had attended the College Republicans meeting where Hacke spoke. Then Senator Cameron Cole (‘23), one of the senators who had put forth the resolution, read a statement from Druker and pointed out that there are “no Jews left in the senate”.


The Treasurer of the Chinese and Taiwanese Cultural Association and President of QTPOC, Amanda France, spoke, identifying herself as a queer woman of color, connecting the incident to larger concerns regarding student safety, citing incidents of violence against students in the [last] [year]. France brought up the University’s proximity to the state Capitol and the protests that occur across the street. France was also the first and only speaker to bring up concerns regarding whether or not Hacke was vaccinated in compliance with University policy.


A student identified as Oak spoke about their experience as an admissions ambassador for Willamette and the responsibility they felt for their fellow students. “I see students in this room currently that I recruited to this institution. I feel bad about that. I can't guarantee their safety. I can't guarantee that they will come onto this campus and feel proud of who they are,” Oak said. They appealed to the ASWU members’ humanity and their status as peers and friends of students in the room.


As the discussion progressed, a student identified themself and their partner as having been present at the April 15, 2021 [protest] outside the Salem Police Department where peaceful protesters, including Willamette students, were threatened by a man with a shotgun, who fired in the air before driving away and being arrested at a high-risk traffic stop. They said, “I thought in that moment we were going to die.” They referenced the incident as being particularly disillusioning to their feelings of safety as a Queer student, a sentiment seconded by others in following comments.


A student identified as ‘Adriana’ shared her experience as a woman of color who had been involved with Willamette for a long time, first as a Willamette Academy student and then as an undergraduate student. She said in the time since she has been here, this incident has been the “most awful thing” to occur. She said she hoped that, “every single member of ASWU realizes how important this decision is, realizes the impact that it has, the message that you're sending every student on this campus.”


An unidentified student said, "There's so much said already....And one thing that I guess I have to add is that we need an investigation." A student identified as Iris Fern shared their frustrations and feeling of exhaustion, and called for other students to speak up during the public comments even without a polished or prepared statement. Iris Fern also notably was the first in the meeting to directly call for the president of College Republicans to issue an apology. Following this, an unidentified student called for the president of College Republicans to step down from their position as Chief Justice of ASWU.


A student identified as Vanessa then brought up concerns about the ASWU meeting itself as it had been moved to Eaton 209 from its usual meeting place of the Alumni Lounge, causing an accessibility issue as the elevator in that building is currently broken. There was some back and forth with the Vice President of ASWU, Angel Park, on whether or not this was on purpose, with Park citing issues in the online system used to reserve rooms.


Another student spoke after and said that the issues raised in the meeting are not just the responsibility of ASWU, but also the University administration.


The discussion then turned to the explanations that had been heard by students from College Republicans, including that they were unaware of the speaker's affiliation and what he was going to be speaking on. Multiple students said that this was not an excuse with one notable speaker saying that, “Just because they didn't know that wasn't a hate group doesn't mean that this is okay. A quick Google [search] will tell you, reading the stuff that he has written, that's transphobic, and antisemitic, like do your research.” A student identified as Daniel also pointed out that no one from College Republicans stopped the speaker, and Remy said that they had an actively positive response to the speaker.


After nearly 40 minutes of emotionally charged public comment, the meeting moved on to the senators themselves discussing the resolution. Almost all of the senators shared in the discussion regarding their concerns and their own experiences as members of historically marginalized groups at Willamette. This section has also been summarized for comments of particular importance.


Senator Ainsley Moench (‘24), one of the senators who put forth the resolution, who was actually present at the College Republican’s meeting on Oct. 19, shared her experience at the meeting and the concerns she shared with those students who had spoken during public comment.


Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24), on of the senators who had put forth the resolution, spoke, thanking the students who came out to the ASWU meeting for their support and for sharing their comments and concerns, including their fellow senators. They referenced how important the issue was for themselves as a trans student and gave shoutout to the Binders4Bearcats program, as well as other individual students who had supported them. They outlined the grounds on which they moved to disaffiliate College Republicans from ASWU, citing the student code of conduct, ASWU’s bylaws and College Republicans anti-racism plan that had been submitted to ASWU last year as part of their school-wide [anti-racism] measures.


Senator Moench pointed out that four members of College Republicans are currently ASWU senators, and encouraged them to abstain from the vote on the resolution. Senator Athena Marvitz added that it was more than encouraged, but expected. Senator Colby Alexander reminded senators of their oath of office and argued that voting in favor of this resolution was required to uphold that oath. He also was the first and only speaker to suggest the possibility of reaffiliation for College Republicans if they got new leadership, and demonstrated understanding and regret.


The resolution was moved to a vote, with 9 senators voting aye, 0 voting nay and 4 abstentions (from the members of College Republicans on ASWU).


The meeting proceeded into officer reports, with ASWU President Giovanni Bautista giving comment on the events of the last hour or so of the meeting. He thanked everyone who came out and said, “Hate has no place here, Hate has no place at Willamette. I hear you, I hear all of you, including those of you that are outside. I’m encouraged to see Willamette come together.” He said that steps were being taken to hold those involved in the incident accountable, but said he could not yet comment on the specifics as he had only been told of the incident a few hours before.


As the primary portion of the meeting related to the Collegian Republicans came to a close, the bulk of the students who had turned out left, with the meeting eventually ending with approximately 17 students present.


Later in the meeting there was more discussion of the incident during the report of Chief Justice Knorr as he is also the president of College Republicans. Multiple students not on ASWU directed questions and criticisms to him through senators yielding their time to the public. There was back and forth focused on questions of accountability, impartiality and future communication on investigations and decisions from ASWU. In response to calls for an apology Knorr said, “I, as a person, am sorry, for any harm that was caused to any individuals as a result of this.”


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