College Republicans revise constitution amid group disaffection

by Maya Kempf-Harris | 3/5/20 2:05am

The Dartmouth College Republicans are rewriting their constitution under a newly organized leadership team following the resignations of chairman Daniel Bring ’21 and co-vice chairman Alexander Rauda ’21. Their resignations marked the end of months of disaffection in the group related to the actions of the two departed leaders, which included the exclusion of dissenters, unapproved changes to the organization’s constitution and a lack of communication to the rest of the organization. 

According to College Republicans interim president Charles Schneider ’22, Bring and Rauda overtook many aspects of the group after taking on leadership of the organization — often excluding members who disagreed with their vision of the club. Schneider said that the two planned events without the approval of — or without even informing — the organization’s board, excluded students who disagreed with them from group chats and sent emails or posted social media posts without the consent of the board.

After learning about broader dissatisfaction with Bring and Rauda from other board members, Schneider wrote a report detailing concerns about Bring and Rauda to student organization accountability program director Steven King on Feb. 13. 

Three days after the complaint was sent to King, Bring sent out an email to campus on Feb. 16 from the College Republicans’ email account with the subject line “They’re bringing drugs…” to advertise Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bryant “Corky” Messner’s planned visit to campus.

King declined to comment for this story..

Schneider said that Bring and Rauda did not include other members of the College Republicans’ board in the planning or advertising process for the Messner event, which he said did not align with the leadership’s values. 

“As far as I’m aware, no one else in the leadership other than [Bring and Rauda] was even aware that the event was even happening,” Schneider said. “All of us found out the event was happening by receiving the email like the rest of campus.”

According to Schneider, had the rest of the board been included in the decision-making process, the email would never have gone out.

Bring told The Dartmouth that he met with Safety and Security and an officer from the Hanover Police Department on the morning of Feb. 17. A spokesperson from Hanover Police confirmed that they were in contact with Bring on Feb. 17, the day before Messner’s scheduled campus visit. 

However, another statement from Hanover Police on the day of the canceled event stated that they were not involved in the decision to cancel the event. Bring said that he had submitted “one remark” that he found “particularly threatening” to Hanover Police, but they had not completed their investigation when the event was canceled. 

On Feb. 18, the College Republicans sent out another email stating that Messner’s campus visit scheduled for that evening was “postponed indefinitely” due to “serious security concerns.”

Schneider said that Bring and Rauda never informed him of any threats to the event. He added that he was also never made aware of any contact between Bring and Safety and Security or Hanover Police.

That same evening, Bring and Rauda stepped down from their positions as chairman and co-vice chairman of the College Republicans. Both have claimed that the handling of the Messner event was not the cause of their resignations.

“This event really highlighted those failings, and it was a wakeup call for us that maybe it would be best if we just took a step back from the organization and politics on campus,” Bring said. 

On the evening of Feb. 18, the Messner campaign posted on Twitter that his appearance on campus was canceled due to “the militant stance of the Dartmouth College Dems.” Bring denied responsibility for the statement.

“We are not responsible for his campaign messaging,” Bring said, “and we did not — at least, I know I did not — identify the College Democrats in any way as the source of these threats, either to the Messner campaign or Safety and Security and the Hanover Police Department.”

Schneider said that he was hesitant to blame Messner for the campaign messaging, saying that he was likely operating off of false information from Bring.

“I think the most important thing to realize here is Mr. Messner — as well as everyone else both on the Republican and Democratic side that responded to this — were operating under what I understand to be bad information,” Schneider said. “I have a very hard time faulting Mr. Messner or any of the Democrats that came out pretty strongly against us.”

Schneider said that the Messner campaign “believed they were speaking to a credible source on behalf of the Dartmouth College Republicans,” but that in speaking to Bring, the campaign was in reality “speaking to a member who at the time and in recent history did not represent the College Republicans.”

College Democrats communications director Katie Smith ’22 said that the organization has since demanded an apology from the Messner campaign.

“They essentially weaponized this controversy and have been raising money off of the ‘fact’ that ‘violent leftists’ were making threats against them and their candidate,” Smith said. “And that’s obviously not true.”

 Since this leadership change, the College Republicans have been working to restructure the organization. The group is currently rewriting its constitution with the help of the Council on Student Organizations. This restructuring comes after the Schneider questioned the legitimacy of some revisions made to the document under Bring and Rauda’s leadership..

Bring said that the constitution was revised at “several points” during previous leadership, but that it was only revised “once or twice” during his time as chairman.

Schneider estimated that the constitution was changed “at least five times” during Bring’s time as chairman, although he said that he had no definite way of knowing whether that estimate was accurate. When asked whether Bring’s claim that the constitution was revised once or twice sounded plausible, Schneider said he believed that was not correct.

According to Schneider, the College Republicans’ board was not informed when changes were being made to the constitution under Bring’s chairmanship, and that he does not believe that the changes made were approved by COSO.

“The only reason I found out that changes were being made was I went to look at the constitution when it came time when we were all very concerned about [Bring and Rauda’s leadership] and we were considering options for removal,” Schneider said. “I noticed that it said it had been edited two days before I was in there, and none of us knew about it.”

According to Schneider, COSO reached out to the College Republicans and asked to discuss recent changes that had been made to the organization’s constitution, giving him the impression that COSO was also unaware of the changes made to the constitution until after they were implemented. That meeting happened the day after Bring and Rauda stepped down. 

“As far as I’m aware, the changes were not brought to COSO or to College administration before being put into the constitution,” Schneider said. “I believe they were just changed.”

After learning more about the policies of the College Republicans, COSO is helping the organization revise its constitution. 

“The COSO board, which oversees student organizations under its purview, has spent considerable time and effort learning about the policies and operations of the College Republicans,” the COSO board wrote in a statement to The Dartmouth. “COSO is currently working with the College Republicans on revising their constitution and many of their organizational practices to help them make changes to support positive contributions to the community.”

Schneider said that the organization plans to have a structure for the new constitution completed by the end of winter term.