During Monday’s Senate meeting, SGA Presidential hopeful Robert Jurman had his application for a Saint Joseph’s College Republicans club voted down 19 to 15, with 7 abstentions. This decision followed a heated debate in which the implications of having such a club on campus were discussed.
The primary concern of Senate members during the open-floor discussion was the possibility of the club campaigning for, rather than educating about, a particular ideology. Mr Jurman’s speech prior to deliberation made mention of convincing students to think about “joining us,” a statement with which several senators vocally took issue. The exclusionary wording of the club’s mission, which states it will seek “like-minded” students who want to join in “confronting [the] opposing viewpoints,” was received by those present as an unwelcome politicization of a decidedly apolitical campus.
Senators raised concerns that the club’s unstated mission was recruitment on behalf of the Republican party. Mr Jurman attempted to refute this but closed his comments by saying the minting of new Republicans is “not the goal, but would be a welcomed outcome. If that happens, we will have done our job.” In an interview on Tuesday he reaffirmed that point, saying, “Getting students to change their ideas, even one inch, in favor of Republicans will be a good thing… for our country,” adding, “Maybe they’d even vote Republican.”
During Tuesday’s interview, Mr Jurman stated the club’s intention as the reeducation of the College about young Republicans, stating he has two goals. First, the club will foster discussion, teach students to defend opinions, build awareness of one’s philosophies, and stoke a willingness to debate. Secondly, and most important to Mr Jurman during Monday’s proposal, the club will create political opportunities for its members through base-level entry into government.
This second goal will purportedly be met by the club’s membership in the College Republican National Committee (CRNC), a tax-exempt 527 organization which according to the IRS raised $11,363,319 and spent $11,694,609 for Republican causes in the 2012 election cycle, making it nationally the 8th largest 527 fundraiser. Its website states that there is “no secret that most universities have a significant liberal bias,” and suggests starting a College Republicans club, which “host activist events, play a crucial role in campaigns and enable you to bring prominent conservative voices to speak on your campus.” The website does not elaborate on how political relationships form once a campus chapter’s minimum 25 members are recognized by the National Committee.
Being a 527 organization, the CRNC is legally limited to spending collected funds on voter mobilization and issue advocacy (rather than candidate advocacy). That the CRNC has the express purpose of Republican-leaning voter mobilization contradicts the nonpartisan message Mr Jurman communicated on Monday. An affiliation with the Committee was the cornerstone of the club’s proposal: Mr Jurman chafed at the suggestion that he instead start a bipartisan Political Club on campus as it would negate the “national accreditation” for which he is aiming.
Regarding fundraising, Mr Jurman said that no amount of his club budget (drawn from Student Activity Fees) would be put towards campaign contributions but instead will be spent on events such as student debates, hosting Republican speakers, and social mixers (including “The All-American Barbecue,” an event he hopes will inspire a casual discourse). He was unaware if a political campaign, even if not funded by the College, would be permitted on campus, but pointed to various schools whose clubs partake in national campaigns. It should be said that fundraising for the CRNC, or any 527, in the name of a candidate is expressly barred by the Federal Election Commission.
Mr Jurman closed Tuesday’s interview by aligning himself with the cultural and spiritual clubs on campus, citing Asian Awareness Club and their “desire to share ideology with the community while being openminded.” While he did not note a difference between celebrating one’s culture and choosing to be a Republican, Mr Jurman did have a question for those who oppose the creation of a College Republicans club: “What are you so afraid of?” He promises to return with another proposal as soon as possible.