Former president of College Republicans at Texas is revealed to have been leading the organization while not a student at UT

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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