Lauren Pierce

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

(Photo courtesy of twitter.com)

Lauren Pierce, president of the UT College Republicans and secretary of the statewide Texas College Republicans, is facing the consequences of a tweet she posted voicing her opinion about President Barack Obama and referencing the gunfire directed at the White House last Friday.

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

Pierce’s tweet followed the news of the Pennsylvania State Police’s arrest of 21-year-old Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez in connection with the White House gunfire incident. Last Friday, gunshots were reported in front of the White House and bullets were found on White House grounds, according to the Associated Press. An assault-style rifle and empty shell cases were found in a car which were all tied to the suspect after shots were reported.

Pierce later apologized on Twitter, saying she regrets publishing the tweet and that it was in poor taste.

“It’s never funny to joke about such a serious matter,” Pierce tweeted. “I have learned a very valuable lesson.”

John Chapman, public relations director for the UT College Republicans, said the organization has asked her to resign from both of her positions because the language used in her message was contrary to their principles.

“Our message is to foster professional and respectful discussion at the University,” Chapman said. “Even though we might disagree with Obama, implying or attempting to commit violence is not positive, constructive or acceptable discussion.”

Chapman said Pierce was unavailable for comment about the tweet.

Chapman said the public’s reaction to the tweet is a lesson for all to understand the implications of statements made on social media sites.

“This is going to make people sit back and think, ‘Hey, I need to think before I post this,’” Chapman said. “What you say on Twitter is very public and can reflect on yourself and the organization you represent.”

Chapman said a temporary president will be appointed to serve until the organization’s general elections take place at the end of this semester.

Cameron Miculka, vice president of the UT University Democrats, said all Texans should condemn Pierce’s tweet regardless of their political affiliation because of the potentially dangerous implications of the message.

“For a UT student to joke about killing the president being ‘tempting’ is nothing short of disgraceful,” Miculka said. “What one individual might see as a joke, another may take as a challenge.”

Government lecturer Shannon Bow O’Brien said she thinks Pierce’s tweet was intended to be funny but was inappropriate nonetheless.

“The president is an elected official, and our system allows us to express opinions through voting, not violence,” Bow O’Brien said. “The student is likely getting a harsh lesson that as the elected president of a group, her voice carries weight.”

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Student leader faces backlash from comment about Obama

Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the RedState Gathering, a meeting of conservative activists, where he announced his run for president in 2012 in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Another Texas politician has a chance at being added to the list of U.S. presidents now that Gov. Rick Perry has officially entered the race for the White House.

Perry announced his presidential aspirations at the RedState Gathering in Charleston, S.C., on Saturday, and announced the launch of his presidential campaign website shortly afterward. During his speech Perry said President Barack Obama been a “rudderless” leader and said if elected president he would cut taxes and deregulate business to help stimulate the economy.

In Iowa, UT’s College Republicans are campaigning for Perry and said he will bring a “fresh face” to the primaries.

“Iowans couldn’t be more receptive to our presence and the campaign,” said College Republicans President Lauren Pierce in an email to The Daily Texan.

James Henson, a government lecturer, said Perry will be a top-tier candidate among the Republican Party and will run on a pro-business, economic growth platform. He said in order to win the primary Perry has to continue the momentum he has now and continue to raise money.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Perry received 15 percent of the Republican vote in a straw poll in Iowa while still undeclared as an official candidate earlier this week. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the front-runner with 17 percent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, ranked third with 12 percent.

Pierce said Perry would not have a problem boxing out the other Republican front-runners and would hopefully be a strong contender against Obama.

“This election will be based on the economy, and unfortunately for Bachmann, her focus is on social issues — which won’t carry victory. And Romney is an old face that hasn’t been able to pull through before,” Pierce said. “Hopefully the country will turn to a leader like Perry who can run a country where we live within our means.”

While campaigning in Iowa on Friday, Romney said the primaries will be much more interesting now that Perry is in the race.

Perry is currently the longest-serving governor in the country, and he has gained national support as a Republican presidential candidate from many GOP legislators across the country, as well as from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who announced he will run for U.S. Senate earlier last month.

Government lecturer Alan Sager told The Daily Texan last month if Perry wins the nomination, he will win the presidency. Sager said Perry is in a good position to run because Texas has weathered the economic downturn better than most states in the country.