College Republicans

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

During the last week of campaigning, Student Government executive alliance candidates Braydon Jones and Kimia Dargahi expressed contradictory opinions about “Campus Carry” legislation in interviews with the College Republicans and the University Democrats.

Campus Carry, a bill under consideration in the House and Senate, would allow concealed handguns into campus buildings if the holder has a concealed handgun license.  

In Jones and Dargahi’s interview, College Republicans president Amy Nabozny said the two candidates said, if Campus Carry was to become law, they would prefer schools get a choice as to whether Campus Carry is enacted. In a questionnaire for University Democrats, the alliance said, “We stand wholeheartedly in opposition to concealed carry on campus.”

Following the interview, Jones emailed College Republicans and said he supports Campus Carry.

“To be short, I do oppose Campus Carry in the definition of allowing any student to carry a weapon on campus; however, (as mentioned last night) I do think this is an area where it’s ‘grey’ and not black and white,” the email said. “I do support students with [CHLs’] ability to carry, as they have received training and adequate testing to carry firearms. That being said, I also believe in the importance of UTPD — and entrusting these men and women who serve to protect students to do their job.”

Nabozny said the group knew it could not endorse Jones this year after he fast-tracked a bill in opposition to Campus Carry through SG.

“After speaking to our members and then reading their UDems survey, it was clear they were pandering to both groups,” Nabozny said. 

Jones and Dargahi are currently considered front-runners in the Executive Alliance race. In a Daily Texan opinion poll, the candidates amass 56 percent of the total online votes, with 2,987 votes at the time of publication.

At the SG candidate debate Monday, Jones said he opposes Campus Carry since the University is also opposed to the bill.

“Right now, the University of Texas administration, as well as the University of Texas System, [does] not support Campus Carry,” Jones said. “Until there is a large amount of students that think otherwise, I would be more than happy to sit down with students that think that, but I think it’s in the best interest of the University to support the administration.”  

The other two alliances, Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, and David Maly and Steven Svatek, said they were completely opposed to Campus Carry.

“We feel like more guns on campus makes campus less safe, therefore we would want to advocate against it as student body president and VP,” Maly said.

Rotnofsky and Mandalapu, candidates who have been running a mostly satirical campaign, said at the debate they wanted to reverse their position on Campus Carry. 

“Can we also backtrack our answer?” Rotnofsky said. “We’re for guns.”

Jones and Dargahi were the only executive alliance candidates that interviewed for an endorsement. Maly was present at the meeting and left before he could interview. College Republicans did not endorse a candidate this year.

Campus carry, in-state tuition for undocumented students and tuition regulation were major points of focus during an on-campus interview with House Speaker Joe Straus.

At the talk, Straus stressed higher education issues, such as campus carry, in-state tuition for immigrants and tuition regulation.

Students questioned Straus on his opinions related to higher education issues. 

“I think it’s a great way to make him more relatable to UT students,” said Agnes Matula, advertising sophomore and intern for Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene). On Jan. 26, Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) and Rep. Allen Fletcher (R-Cypress) filed “campus carry” bills, which, if passed, would allow licensed concealed hand gun carriers to bring their guns with them on campus grounds and into University buildings.

Chancellor William McRaven and President William Powers Jr. expressed strong opposition to the policy. Straus, while not explicitly stating his current thoughts on the policy, said he would encourage people to listen to McRaven’s thoughts on
the legislation.

“Personally, I would caution anyone to ignore Chancellor McRaven when you’re talking about arms and ammunition,” Straus said.

Bridget Guien, communications director for College Republicans and economics freshman, said College Republicans are in favor of campus carry.

“The College Republicans support concealed carry on campus,” Guein said in an email. “We believe it can be beneficial to the safety of UT’s students since it can provide a form of defense.”

There has been debate between legislators about whether immigrant students should receive in-state tuition at public universities. The policy of in-state tuition for undocumented students began in 2001 when former Gov. Perry passed HB1403 — the Texas Dream Act. 

Straus said he stands by Perry’s act.

“These are young people who have played by the rules, qualified for admission to our public schools, and personally, I can think of a lot of worse things people can do with their lives,” Straus said.

Straus also expressed support for university control of tuition, which was deregulated in 2003. Straus said the rising prices of tuition are important to address, but he has not seen a decrease in the demand of education since tuition deregulation.

“For me, specifically, deregulating tuition at a time when the state was not making an investment in higher education made a lot of sense,” Straus said.

Straus said the State should still express interest in higher education by supporting research and the creation of more tier-one institutions.

Although Michelle Willoughby, University Democrats president and government junior, said she mostly agreed with Straus’ stance on campus carry and the Dream Act, she does not agree with his views on tuition. She said students should receive more aid from the state for their public university educations.  

“I think tuition should be regulated — it should be lower and the Legislature should chip in more,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby said she appreciates Straus’ moderate stances and willingness to compromise on policy between parties.

“I think we need more legislators like Straus that are willing to ignore the ‘R’s and ‘D’s at the ends of the names and focus on the needs of Texans, the needs of students and the needs of taxpayers,” Willoughby said.

Guien of College Republicans said she thinks Straus’ visit to UT will help students become more engaged in state politics.

“Since he is such a prominent member of the Texas government, students will be more inclined to come and become more interested in politics,” Guien said in an email. 

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: On Aug. 15, a Travis County grand jury indicted Gov. Rick Perry for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor, entered into political fisticuffs with Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg last summer when she refused to step down after her much-publicized arrest for drunk driving. Perry had made it clear that he would not allow state financial support to continue flowing to the Public Integrity Unit — which prosecutes political misconduct across the state and is overseen by Lehmberg — if she did not heed his calls for her resignation. In the face of her disobedience, Perry made good on his threat and vetoed $7.5 million of state funding for the PIU. At the time, the unit was investigating misconduct at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, but not by Perry himself, according to a Travis County prosecutor. Perry entered a plea of “not guilty” to both charges on Aug. 22. On Aug. 24, Democrat Mindy Montford, an Austin defense attorney, confirmed that Perry had offered her the job. Below, we have sought the opinions of key leaders of College Republicans on the matter. This is part of a Point/Counterpoint. To see the opposing viewpoint, click here

We have to admit, we are not law students. However, it doesn’t take much legal know-how to understand the recent charges against Gov. Rick Perry are nothing more than political theatrics caused by a scorned district attorney’s office. But as a history major, Amy recognizes that this DA’s office is notorious for unsuccessfully attacking major Republican politicians, from former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to former Congressman Tom DeLay. This is another desperate attempt for Democrats to maintain power in Travis County while taxpayers foot the bill. 

When Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — who’s ironically the head of the state’s Public Integrity Unit — was arrested for drunk driving, she completely tarnished her office. Not only was Lehmberg driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit, she berated police officers, had to be restrained and was forced to wear a “spit shield” to stop her from spitting on the jail staff. Soon after this occurred, footage of Lehmberg’s erratic behavior during her booking was made public on YouTube. 

Anyone with an ounce of integrity would have apologetically stepped down from the office after an incident like this. Lehmberg selfishly continued to run the Public Integrity Unit even though she had previously endangered the lives of Texas residents and verbally abused policemen. Naturally, Perry asked Lehmberg to resign from her office. When she remained defiant, Perry said he’d defund her unit, which would result in the loss of her position. Again, Lehmberg defied Perry’s request and, unsurprisingly, he vetoed the spending bill to the Public Integrity Unit. 

The exchange between Perry and Lehmberg is a classic example of shrewd political bargaining. It is seen in all levels of government. If this qualifies as coercion, then it could be applied to almost any political power struggle. There is no need to create a legal precedent that allows common political squabbles to be criminally prosecuted. However, given the history of the Travis County DA’s office, we all know this is a purely political prosecution, most likely initiated out of a fear that Perry would appoint a Republican DA. Even liberals outside of Texas agree this is a shoddy indictment. From The New York Times to David Axelrod, there is national public criticism from the left.

Texas Democrats can claim Perry used bad judgment or that he should have sought another route to remove Lehmberg, but to pin him as a felon is childish. They don’t care if this lengthy case will be paid by taxpayers, or that our governor could spend the rest of his life in prison, as long as they control their blue dot in a deeply red state. 

Pursuing this case against Perry is more than just reckless with taxpayer money. It sets a terrible precedent of interfering with how officeholders carry out their duties. Perry fully explains the reasoning for his veto of the Public Integrity Unit’s funding, which has become the focus of the indictment. The governor states that “despite the otherwise good work [of] the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence. This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.” Perry has simply used his constitutionally-mandated power of a veto to shape policy. He even replaced the old district attorney with another Democrat, demonstrating this wasn’t even about politics for Perry. If the governor can be charged for ensuring through legal means that the Public Integrity Unit has a leader with integrity, what is an appropriate use of constitutionally-mandated powers? No politician — Republican or Democrat — benefits from an environment where a use of legal power becomes illegal simply because it makes the other side unhappy. 

Laws concerning coercion and abuse of power by public officials were never meant to stop actions sanctioned by one’s office. They were meant to combat outright violations of an officeholder’s duties like bribery and embezzlement. These laws should never be weaponized to fight in political disputes. Let debates and elections decide the merits of legal acts by our public servants. A fear of indictment and even punishment for performing legal actions only hinders officeholders from carrying out the duties of their office.

The indictment of Perry is reckless for many reasons. The governor never should have been prosecuted for using powers sanctioned by his office to remove an official who had so obviously failed in her duties. The case against Perry is largely frivolous and sets a dangerous precedent of using courts as a battleground for political disputes.     

Nabozny is the president of College Republicans. She is a history junior from Farmington Hills, Michigan. Parker is the communications director of College Republicans. He is a Plan II and Business Honors sophomore from Plano.

Editor’s Note: In anticipation of the May 1 deadline for admitted high-school students to choose to attend the University, we asked student leaders on campus to tell us why they came to UT. Their responses will appear on the opinion page through Thursday. 

In all honesty, I had not planned on coming to UT as a high school senior. But, at the end of the day, when I compared the cost of attending private East Coast universities to that of attending UT, it was clear which one was the better choice. I don’t regret my decision because I liked the majors that I chose, especially plan II Honors and government. I had always been interested in politics, but it was at UT that I was able to pursue that interest through all the internships that were available in Austin and through having great professors who had real-world political experience. There was no better place for me as a Republican to explore my opportunities in politics than UT. As president of the College Republicans at Texas, I met Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Land Commissioner candidate George P. Bush and many other elected officials.

My word of advice to high school students still unsure about which universities to attend is to look at the rankings for the program they were accepted into. For me, Plan II Honors was ranked as the third best honors program in the nation, and government was ranked first in Texas. Also, think about the location. Austin is a fun city, and there is so much more to do here than in the Rio Grande Valley, where I am from. If cost is your biggest concern, like it was for me, I think you’ll struggle to find a school where you’ll get a better return on your investment. 

With that said, I’ll be attending law school here starting this fall, and it was easy for me to decide to stay for another three years. I hope students who are still unsure will think hard about attending UT. It’s not for everyone. There are those who dropped out or transferred to other schools, but there are also those who would give anything to get into UT. Luckily, those who already got in just have to make a decision, which I know isn’t always an easy one. I hope these students will attend UT.

Hung is a Plan II senior and president of College Republicans. He will be graduating in May.

In newspapers and on TV screens, Republican Party leaders are analyzing what went wrong with their most recent presidential bid, but members of UT’s College Republicans chapter are focusing on the future rather than the past.

While members offered different theories to explain the Romney loss, communications director Danny Zeng attributed the Obama victory, which he said was larger than he expected, to a failure by the Republican Party to shape its public image.

“I don’t think we did very well in defining our narrative, and we let the Obama campaign define who we are as Republicans,” Zeng said.

Zeng also said Republicans have been unfairly portrayed as a regressive party.

“We’re painted as this anti-progress party, but when you look at our organization, we have one of the most diverse officer boards of any party organization,” Zeng said.

According to data released by the New York Times, President Obama carried 93 percent of the black vote, 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 73 percent of the Asian vote.

Chief financial officer Ben Mendelson said the loss was primarily because of a low Republican voter turnout.

“The party is a little bit behind the times in how it communicates with people on an individual level,” Mendelson said.

Republican pollster Michael Baselice, a guest speaker at College Republicans’ meeting Thursday, offered a similar perspective on Romney’s loss.

“We got schooled in 2008 by Obama in terms of social marketing effort, youth and getting out the vote,” Baselice said. “That’s what hurt us again.”

Yet even with the presidential loss, Zeng said there is reason to be optimistic.

“We’re focusing on connecting our people with internships. Republicans control the state Senate and the House, so there are lots of opportunities and a lot of individuals our members are really passionate about,” Zeng said.

Zeng said the club’s focus now is the new legislative session, which begins in January. Additionally, the club will continue to host its weekly speakers. It has already heard from speakers like Texas Comptroller Susan Combs and state Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) this year.  

Environmental science freshman Mitchell Riegler said he thinks the club has already moved on to focus on current events.

“Politics is fast-paced,” Riegler said. “We have to move on past the election. We shouldn’t be too glum.”

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: College Republicans look to future 

This year the Young Conservatives of Texas announced that they’re bringing back their ‘professor watch-list’, which attempts to bring attention to professors that teach with either a conservative or liberal bias, and either discourage or openly reject dissenting opinions.  It’s a noble cause, of course, but as my colleague Larisa Manescu pointed out in a recent column, “The fact that an inherently biased political organization considers itself the architect of a watch list to identify and eliminate bias is suspicious. This concern would be just the same if the University Democrats proposed the same project.”

It’s important to address biases, especially in the classroom and in the media.  From my experience, my professors do an excellent job of welcoming diverse opinions.  But Danny Zeng, communications director of College Republicans of Texas, thinks the media is liberally biased, asking me, “For instance, how many conservatives write for The Daily Texan?”  My own observations of this semester’s group of weekly columnists tells me there are few.

The reason is actually rather simple.  At the beginning of the year, Kayla Oliver, a Texan associate editor, did actually invite members of both the College Republicans and the Young Conservatives to apply for a spot on the paper, though only two expressed an interest in applying.

As a libertarian, I often feel like my voice is left out.  Realizing this, I applied to be an opinion columnist.  I reached out to the College Republicans and the Young Conservatives for this column, like I did for my last three columns, to no avail.  Danny Zeng of the College Republicans did contact me for this column.  The Young Conservatives, however, have not yet replied to a single interview request — for this column or any other.  Perhaps the issue isn’t some ‘liberal’ media bias, but rather a lack of cooperation.

“Bias in media is not simply how one phrases certain things, but more importantly, what topics are chosen to be covered,” Zeng said.   However, the College Republicans refused to participate in the recent Hook the Vote election debate, claiming, “CR officers re-evaluated the whole situation and saw absolutely no benefits for us to stage a dog-and-pony show, putting our members through debate prep for a group of maybe 20 highly partisan college students.”  I asked Zeng if the group regretted their decision after the debate attracted more than 100 attendees, as well as media coverage.  “Short answer, no,” Zeng said, “I have to ask if any significant number of that “[more than] 100 attendees” did not have their minds made already prior to attending the debate.”  Maybe there is a bias that affects which topics are chosen, but removing yourself from a publicized debate is not a great way to help your case.

But how do others see bias?  Journalism professor Robert Jensen noted that, statistically, people with higher education levels, including journalists, are typically more liberal on social issues than the general public.  So, he says that “there is a kernel of truth” to the alleged bias, but it’s a very small kernel that’s been exploited by the well-funded right wing.

Plan II student Colleen O’Neill is a little uncomfortable with what she considers the media’s liberal bias, as are many other students I talked to.  Agreeing with Dr. Jensen that the entertainment industry has a very clear liberal bias, O’Neill told me, “Teens and young adults see these young, relatable and successful celebrities supporting the liberal party, and they see that being a part of the liberal party is the popular thing to do. At our impressionable, young ages, it is only natural for us to latch onto something that the crowd is doing.”  To see O’Neill’s point, one only has to compare the many celebrity endorsements of Obama to the fewer celebrity endorsements of Romney.

It is important to note, as Dr. Jensen did, that sometimes the supposed ‘liberal bias’ of the media is simply a ‘bias’ toward fact.  While supporting a woman’s right to have an abortion is subjective, pointing out facts is not. When Missouri Congressman Todd Akin infamously said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” the media called him out for his blatantly false statement — and rightly so.  Akin, however, claimed that the media attention was an unfair attack from the ‘liberal elite’ and the ‘liberal media.’  If a bias against stupidity is considered unfair, we have a significant problem.

Luckily, from the students I’ve talked to, our professors on campus do a good job of teaching without any significant biases.  Even Zeng told me, “I have personally not experienced much bias from the professors. My liberal professors are very balanced with their teachings, so are my conservative professors.” Exercise science junior Caroline Betik said, “All of my professors like to keep quiet about their views and allow students to decide for themselves.  I think the bias comes from who your friends are, roommates and what groups you associate yourself with, like certain sororities or other organized groups on campus.”  Seconding that point, Pierre Rochard of the Libertarian Longhorns noted, “Neither the city of Austin nor the University are monolithic, homogenous entities,” so we can’t make blanket statements about local biases.

So, really, the only thing I’ve concluded is that, with my libertarian bias, I can’t properly address whether or not there is a dominant bias in the media or on campus.  But there was one thing that everyone I interviewed agreed upon: it’s important to learn, discuss, and engage the ideas and views of all sides of the political spectrum.

McCann is a Plan II freshman from Dallas

College Republicans opted out of a Wednesday debate with University Democrats, citing a lack of organization and communication by Hook the Vote, despite debate organizers’ assertions that the debate was planned well in advance.

Earlier this semester, College Republicans and University Democrats agreed to a debate Wednesday hosted by Hook the Vote. Hook the Vote, which has hosted College Republicans/University Democrats debates in previous semesters, is a nonpartisan SG agency that aims to register students to vote and to educate them on issues in the election. Longhorn Libertarians President Jose Niño said his student organization agreed to debate in place of the College Republicans.

Danny Zeng, College Republicans communications director, said his organization felt Hook the Vote did not communicate or publicize the debate early enough in advance. Zeng said Hook the Vote was slow in getting a moderator, making a Facebook event and reserving a room. Zeng said before last week, all College Republicans knew was the debate’s date.

“CR officers re-evaluated the whole situation and saw absolutely no benefits for us to stage a dog-and-pony show, putting our members through debate prep, for a group of maybe twenty highly partisan college students,” Zeng said in an email.

Hook the Vote director Billy Calve said that University Democrats and College Republicans were informed of the debate’s date and format throughout the semester.

“All of the organizations participating in Hook the Vote have been made aware of the debate, and they were sharing the information with the members,” Calve said. “That covers a wide area of campus.”

More than 30 political, social and other student organizations are partnered with Hook the Vote.

University Democrat Leslie Tisdale said this move by College Republicans is detrimental to both the debate and political conversations on campus.

“I think it really hurts their cause and their club,” Tisdale said.

Calve said by dropping from the debate, the College Republicans hurt Hook the Vote’s efforts to inform students about issues from all sides of the political spectrum.

“The purpose of this debate is to inform students about the issues both parties are promoting,” Calve said. “If we don’t have one of those sides represented, students are not hearing about all the options.”

The debate will be at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in Gearing Hall, room 105. Susannah Jacob, The Daily Texan’s editor-in-chief, will moderate the debate. Both University Democrats and Longhorn Libertarians will have three students represent them at the debate.

Published on October 24, 2012 as: "Longhorns Libertarians step in for Republicans"

A second UT Republican leader catches flak for Twitter activity

[Updated at 11:16 p.m., added statement]

A month after former College Republicans President Lauren Pierce resigned over a controversial, anti-Obama Tweet, her replacement is attracting attention.

Early Sunday morning, government senior Cassandra Wright Tweeted, "My president is black, he snorts a lot of crack. Holla. #2012 #Obama."

On Nov. 16, Pierce Tweeted "Y'all, as tempting as it may be, don't shoot Obama. We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we've EVER had! #2012".

According to a critical blog on Burnt Orange Report, Wright responded to the backlash against Pierce and said, "Insofar as she's a representative [of the College Republicans], maybe it shouldn't be said, but she's made a positive statement in a way. I don't really see anything wrong with it. It's just a personal comment, not representative of any group. Just freedom of speech, you know?"

The Daily Texan received this statement from the UT CR spokesman Cesar Villareal in an email on Monday evening:

"The UT College Republicans neither condones any 'tweeted' remarks, nor any statements made by any member of our organization that may be hurtful and lacking in sensitivity. The opinion of our President Wright is that of her own not in keeping with our core values, our standards, and our code of conduct. While some within our organization may not respect the current President, UT College Republicans does respect the office of the President of the United States. We are all Americans, and even if we do not agree with certain policies, the UT College Republicans wish all our leaders well, as they are all dedicated to public service. I personally apologize for [the] ‘tweeted’ remark."

New information from current College Republicans at Texas leaders has revealed a former president of the organization was not a student when she held her position.

Cassandra Wright, current president emeritus of the organization, said a representative from the Office of the Dean of Students told her former president Lauren Pierce was not a student for most of her tenure, which lasted from April 2011 to December 2011. When College Republican’s officers confronted Pierce about her status, Wright said Pierce chose to leave the organization. Wright said the organization will meet with the Office of the Dean of Students this week to discuss the situation.

Marcia Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Office of the Dean of Students, said DOS could not comment on Pierce’s case because information about a specific case is confidential. Gibbs also said Pierce requested her records be restricted.

Pierce did not respond to requests for comment.

Pierce is most known for the controversial tweet she posted after the arrest of a Pennsylvania man who fired shots at the White House. Police charged Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez with attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama in November 2011, a crime that can result in a lifetime prison sentence.

“Y’all as tempting as it may be, don’t shoot Obama,” Pierce said in her Nov. 16 tweet. “We need him to go down in history as the WORST president we’ve EVER had! #2012.”

Wright said Pierce was a student when the organization elected her in April, and the organization does not check representatives status once the semester goes along. Wright said she was told in February that the organization would not face any punishment because of Pierce’s status. She said she spoke with Melinda Sutton, deputy to the dean of students, about the issue.

“We were disconcerted with the entire thing [when we found out],” Wright said. “And it put into question what was legitimate for last semester. At first, we weren’t sure what was true and what wasn’t and who we had actually been in contact with as an organization.”

Cesar Villarreal, the organization’s former public relations director, said Pierce made him and others believe she was a student. Villarreal said Pierce would discuss the classes she was in, the professors she had and what was going on in her life academically. Villarreal said questions first arose after Pierce organized an event in December at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Plaza and used CR to secure the space. The University got involved in the situation during the event because Pierce had not appropriately reserved the space, since she was not a student.

Villarreal said he was surprised and unsettled when he found out Pierce was not a student.

Wright said she wants the incident to serve as an example to other organizations and encourage them to do regular status checkups on all members, not just officers of the ones who may seem like they are dropping out. She said Pierce’s status does not make a difference regarding the tweet she made about Obama last year.

“It goes to show how much pressure she was under as a person,” Wright said.

At the moment, the Office of the Dean of Students checks the enrollment status of authorized student representatives on the 17th class day of each long semester and keeps it on an online database, said Mary Mercatoris, assistant dean of students. On that day, students who are no longer enrolled are removed from the authorized representative database for the registered student organization.

In addition, Mercatoris said enrollment for representatives of new student organizations is checked as part of the official approval process of the organization and status is automatically checked again when the organization reregisters every semester. Organizations can update their information on that database at any time.

“It’s the primary responsibility of the student organization to maintain their information current,” she said. “They need to be able to identify both to their members and to the public who is able to speak on their behalf and who are their leaders.”

Mercatoris said only UT students, faculty and staff are allowed to be part of the membership of an organization according to the University’s institutional rules. If DOS learned there may be a violation of those rules, she said they would immediately investigate.

She said there are discussions about checking a student’s enrollment status more often and that she will be looking into it.

Huey Fischer, president of University Democrats, said the fact that Pierce was not a student does not change the gravity of the Obama tweet because the entire community was under the impression that she led College Republicans when she posted it.

Fischer said University Democrats has strict rules restricting membership to current UT students and checks members’ statuses on the University directory during the semester and when they apply for membership. He said he believes this case is odd and does not merit a more stringent screening process for student leaders.

“It’s difficult for clubs to hold their members accountable in terms of their academic status,” Fischer said. “It’s really a matter of trust.”

Fischer said he does not think University Democrats will be changing its rules to check their members’ status more often because he does not want to create a culture where students question one another’s eligibility. 

Printed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 as: Republican organization learns former leader lied

Senior government major Paul Theobald moderates Hook the Vote & UT Votes Debate Wednesday evening in Mary E. Gearing Hall. University Democrats and College Republicans debated different issues at the meeting.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

University Democrats and College Republicans faced off Wednesday night in a debate on issues that influence
students most.

Hook the Vote, a nonpartisan agency of Student Government, hosted the debate and posed questions concerning voter identification, undocumented immigrants, the D.R.E.A.M. Act, the sonogram bill and contraception. Those issues were chosen because they are the topics most relevant to students, said Dana Henning, agency director and government junior, in an email.

“The debate serves as a way for us to educate students not only on the issues that concern them most, but also to familiarize them with varying viewpoints surrounding those issues,” Henning said.

Three students spoke for each organization. The College Republicans were represented by treasurer and government junior Jordan Nichols, finance junior Danny Zeng and Plan II junior Benjamin Mendelson. UDems communication director and sociology junior Andre Treiber, public health junior Sandra Ogenche and electrical engineering sophomore Pat Donovan debated on behalf of the UDems.

The debate opened the question of whether voter identification legislation is justified and how it affects students. Both sides agreed that preventing voter fraud was important, but UDems representatives claimed that the legislation damaged democracy by barring disproportionately racial minorities and students, whereas College Republicans argued that it protected the democratic process.

“Conveniently, [voter ID legislation] disenfranchises people like students and minorities, people that vote Democrat,” said Treiber, after citing studies that concluded widespread voter fraud is nonexistent.

Republicans countered that voter ID was not a matter of race and argued that a single fraudulent vote was enough to warrant the legislation.

Mendelson said voting has nothing to do with race, but is an issue of ensuring every single person has one vote.

His teammate Nichols added, “Any single fraudulent vote that we allow is canceling out someone’s legitimate vote.”

College Republicans said the D.R.E.A.M. Act will do nothing to fix problems in the United States’ immigration system.

“These are what we call magnet policies,” said Nichols. “Things like the D.R.E.A.M. Act encourage people to come over here and have anchor babies.”

College Republicans said the real solution to issues surrounding immigration is to secure the border. Donovan, of University Democrats, dismissed their position as xenophobia.

“I’m not really sure there’s an impact to this argument other than nativist chest-beating,” Donovan said. “The real solution is obviously comprehensive reform.”

College Republicans were then asked whether legislation mandating that women have sonograms prior to an abortion was consistent with their party’s platform of smaller government.

Mendelson said the legislation does not alter abortion procedures in a major way and that the bill is mainly symbolic.

“It was a very symbolic bill,” said Mendelson. “Doctors are going to do a sonogram anyway.”

His teammate Nichols said he has not paid very much attention to the legislation.

“This [the sonogram bill] isn’t really doing anything I’ve paid attention to,” he said. “I don’t know anyone that’s getting a sonogram anytime soon.”

The debate concluded with both sides urging students to vote and then offering their closing remarks.

Treiber said students become Democrats because the party appeals to their political intuition.

“I think that the way a lot of us decide to become Democrats is to follow politics and then develop a sense that the Democratic Party makes more sense than the Republican Party,” said Donovan. “The Democrats are a party of ‘we’ and the Republicans are a party of ‘me.’”

Zeng summarized the Republican position and said the U.S. was at a pivotal moment in history that required a long-term vision.

“We believe that our country is at a crossroads,” he said. “What we do this year will determine where we go in the 21st century.”