The nearly-tangible political polarity that can be observed among society can also be observed at most college campuses nationwide. Whether it exhibits itself in the form of student protests or debates within lecture halls, its ongoing presence does not go unnoticed. The UC system, notorious for their strides towards inclusivity and diversity, has encountered many conflicts in the past few years, in terms of what types of speeches they will or will not allow students to partake in. Although it is a blanket UC policy that no university within the system will endorse hate speech, the system also carries with it that students should be given the opportunity to practice their rights to “free speech.”
Despite the fact that UC Merced is a newly-blooming campus, it is beginning to encounter its own controversies in regard to what organizations should be allowed to receive funding, and what the implications of financially supporting them are. Within the past few weeks, the UC Merced College Republicans have sparked a controversial series of events with the Inter Club Council (ICC) and Associated Students of UC Merced (ASUCM) in the form of school sponsored court cases.
This all began when the UC Merced College Republicans were depicted promoting controversial anti-immigrant propaganda, in which members of the club displayed signs reading “ICE ICE baby,” which lead to a campus-wide outrage among students and staff alike.
Shortly after, the college republicans visited ICC– an organization dedicated to funding small ticket items– to request funds for an annual Republican convention in Santa Barbara. When this case was presented to the ICC, the UC Merced College Republicans received a less than favorable response. After deliberating on the case, three delegates said yes, two said no, and five abstained (abstentions being counted as no’s).
The 7-3 vote that ultimately led to not funding the UC Merced College Republicans caused frustration among the republicans. Harrison Duran, the President of UC Merced College Republicans, messaged several individuals, including the Internal Vice President (IVP), Benjamin Juarez threatening to sue if they were not funded. This caused a commotion among the Republicans, leading ASUCM advisor, Steven Leer, as well as other ASUCM leadership, to push for the IVP or ICC to fund the College Republican trip. However, the IVP was reportedly hesitant to fund it. Senators Jason Braun and Erik Flores, as well as IVP Benjamin Juarez, met with Duran to explain to him his new options, which consisted of meeting and filing another ICC case, going through senate, or getting funded directly through the IVP, but the UC Merced College Republicans chose to go through ICC. The ICC ended up voting to fund the republicans.
Due to the campus’ diverse and accepting climate, Benjamin Juarez (IVP), Marissa Martinez (ASUCM Senator and IVP Candidate), and Stacey Ascencio (ASUCM Senator and Presidential Candidate) released a statement expressing that they stand with the students, and that they do not condone the hateful speech being propagated by the UC Merced College Republicans. Once the statement was released, they were harshly critiqued by the UC Merced College Republican treasurer, Johnathan Turner. After explaining how he believed the ICC’s hesitance to support them was an act of discrimination, he filed to impeach the IVP through the ASUCM Judicial Branch. Turner is an ASUCM candidate for IVP and has since dropped the case.
Recently, Harrison Durran posted a comment on Facebook using the N word, and members of the College Republicans defended his actions as “free speech.” In addition to Turner’s support of the use of the derogatory and otherwise hateful opinions as forms of free speech, he also supported a statement released by the College Republicans, claiming that Liberals are attempting to silence the voices of the College Republicans. Since Turner is running to be the IVP of ASUCM, more important events can be expected within the coming weeks.
Due to the fact that the presidential debate is today (April 19th) and the IVP debate is tomorrow (April 20th), it is of critical importance to pay active attention to what is happening. Marissa Martinez and Jonathan Turner are the two candidates running for the position of IVP, and the choice between the two matters. In the case of any election, it is important to select someone who represents your own values, and someone who will make the best decisions for the population as a whole– or in this case, the student body. By comparing and contrasting the two candidates, it is easy to see the distinct differences between the two, and whose values coincide with those of the student body.
Although some may argue that their language itself does not represent hate speech, The College Republicans beliefs are of a hateful nature and do not reflect the ethical principles of the student government or the UC as a whole. Regardless of a students political affiliation, they should not identify with such blatantly discriminatory beliefs and actions. One way to take action is to bring awareness to Turners actions in the upcoming vote for the next IVP. Overall, in such a politically charged period of history, it is essential to continue advocating for change, and to stand up for not only yourself, but for those who may be affected around you.
Below are important links about the case:
ASUCM Legislative Branch Statement:
College Republicans Statement: http://www.ucmprodigy.com/california-college-republicans-full-statement/
Photo Credit: Facebook and Sofia Figueroa