Amid event controversy, College Republicans leadership resigns

by Peter Charalambous | 2/20/20 2:10am

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An email sent to campus sent by the College Republicans included “They’re bringing drugs...” in the subject line.

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The chairman and co-vice chairman of the Dartmouth College Republicans resigned from their positions on Tuesday night, citing “recent developments” in a statement written by the organization’s board obtained by The Dartmouth.

The resignations came on the same day that the College Republicans announced the “indefinite postponement” of a campus event featuring a U.S. Senate candidate. The organization stated in an email to campus Tuesday afternoon that “serious security concerns” led them to postpone the event — a policy talk with Republican candidate Bryant “Corky” Messner.

However, the credibility of the threats cited by the organization is a matter of contention. The College Republicans had pointed to certain social media messages made about the event. However, the decision to postpone the event was made independently of the College, as well as the Hanover Police Department, and only came after the organization determined that it did not have the time or budget to hire security for the event, according to a member of the College Republicans leadership. 

College Republican leadership also noted that most of the pushback to the event originated from the wording of the email sent to campus advertising the event with the subject line “They’re bringing drugs...” 

Meanwhile, a number of right-wing websites reported on the postponement, characterizing the decision as a response to “violent” threats — a narrative that Messner’s campaign has endorsed in a series of posts made on Twitter. 

“@DartmouthRepublicans were forced to cancel my appearance due to the militant stance of the Dartmouth College Dems,” Messner’s campaign tweeted on Monday. 

But the Dartmouth College Democrats said that they have no knowledge of threats and support the right to speech of both the event organizers and peaceful protestors.  

The connection between the event and the resignations of the two individuals, former chairman Daniel Bring ’21 and co-vice-chairman Alexander Rauda ’21, still remains unclear. 

Former College Republicans co-vice chair Charles Schneider ’22 — who is still serving on the organization’s board as it goes through a restructuring and rewriting of its constitution through the Council on Student Organizations — said that the resignation of Bring and Rauda originated from a leadership structure in the organization which became “bipartite.” 

Schneider said the event on Tuesday is an example of the communication issues which led to the resignations. He added the resignation and events postponement are “totally separate,” and that the organization is now looking forward to improving programming and group control. 

However, Schneider specifically noted that the majority of the board of the College Republicans was excluded from decision-making process for events and communications through both email and social media. 

The College Republicans first announced the event on Sunday by sending an email to the Dartmouth community, with the subject line “They’re bringing drugs…” The event announcement described the event as a policy talk titled “Building a wall against drugs: the need for border security to end the opioid crisis.” 

But Schneider said that most members of the organization did not know about the email and learned about the event only when the email was sent to campus. 

The subject line led to concern among students and backtracking by the College Republicans.

“We’ve tried to take responsibility for the subject line by presenting the case and opening a discourse on the issue,” said College Republicans secretary Griffin Mackey ’21 when asked about the nature of the subject line.  

Before the event’s cancellation, senior society Casque & Gauntlet announced that it would host an event at the same time as the College Republicans policy discussion titled “Diaspora Stories for Compassion and Healing,” which was dedicated to “holding space for Latinx students and other immigrant diasporas most affected” and “sharing the hearing the stories of affected communities.”

In both an email to campus and a Facebook post, immigration advocacy group CoFIRED’s executive board said that they “stand in solidarity with the undocumented community and reject harmful narratives that criminalize immigrants.” The email also included a variety of links to articles to “share some helpful facts and statistics about the truth of the United States’s drug epidemic and debunk harmful stereotypes about the immigrant community.” 

At the same time, Mackey said that College Republicans’ leadership began to learn about and respond to the alleged “threats” made to both College Republicans members and Messner. 

“I think we were all concerned for the safety of the event,” Schneider said. 

Schneider said that while the group was concerned about the safety of the event, the current leadership of the group acknowledges that the cause of pushback to the event — namely the provocative subject line — does not represent the beliefs of the current leaders. 

Mackey said that after meeting with Safety and Security on Monday, the College Republicans determined that they neither had the budget nor time to secure adequate safety measures for the event. 

“Current members in the Dartmouth College Republicans didn’t feel comfortable going knowing that there would be no security there,” Mackey said. “You know, we simply couldn’t have the event turn into a fiasco with the protesters.”

Department of Safety and Security interim director Keysi Montás declined to comment on the matter. A representative from Hanover Police said that while the department was notified the event would be cancelled, the chief of police was not consulted in the decision-making process. The ultimate decision for postponement was made independently of the College.

“The College had no role in that decision,” College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in a statement to The Dartmouth. 

In the aftermath of the postponement, Messner’s campaign quickly attributed the cancellation to the threats allegedly made online. 

“Today, the Dartmouth College Republicans had to cancel my speaking engagement because the College Democrats and the leftists were threatening violence against them and me if we had the speaking engagement,” Messner said in a video posted to his campaign’s social media. His online fundraising also included a photoshopped image of Messner with the words “silenced by campus liberals” over his mouth. Messner was unable to be reached for comment. 

The College Democrats have denied knowledge of any threats made against the event and condemned any violence. 

“The Dartmouth Democrats have no knowledge of threats of violence against Mr. Messner or the Dartmouth College Republicans, and under no circumstance would we condone any,” College Democrats executive director Michael Parsons ’20 wrote in an email statement. “We condemn the racist rhetoric propagated by the event, and support the right to free speech by all parties involved, including those who were planning peaceful protests.”

 By late Tuesday night, the College Republicans issued a statement noting that Bring and Rauda resigned “due to recent developments” and that their resignations have been accepted by the organization’s board. 

Schneider specifically cited lapses in communication, a lack of group control of social media and emails and the concern that the group might be further harmed under its past leadership. 

In a statement to The Dartmouth, Bring said that he resigned to “focus on other opportunities and end my contribution to the divisive political atmosphere on campus.” Rauda wrote that he is “happy for the new team and wish them the best in their programming.” 

As for Messner coming back to campus, Schneider said that the College Republicans are seeking to invite all New Hampshire Republican Senate hopefuls to campus to speak, including Messner. 

“The College Republicans and I will figure out a way for me to speak here, and I look forward to that,” Messner said in an online video.  

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