A Republican student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst was rejected from a position he sought in the Student Government Association (SGA) after outing himself as a member of the College Republicans earlier this month.
Richard Cullen is a sophomore who previously served as a student senator but stepped down in order to help the College Republicans chapter this fall. But after the SGA attempted to pass a resolution that originally included terminology claiming there was “ethnic cleansing” taking place at the border, he felt that it was his duty to rejoin the student government. He decided to apply for a vacant seat, which would require him to have two-thirds of the vote from the senators who were present.
While introducing himself before the SGA, Cullen mentioned that he serves as the scholarship chair of his fraternity and as the vice president of the College Republicans.
During the question period, members of the SGA repeatedly asked him what he thought the most pressing issues on campus were by senators who did not seem satisfied with his answers about fixing relationships with the school’s administration and the construction of a new student union building.
One senator asked Cullen if he believes he can “work with every member of this body to produce positive change.”
“Absolutely, I have worked with people across lines my whole entire life,” Cullen responded. “Some of my best friends are Democrats and I came from a church that is one of the most open and affirming congregations, the United Church of Christ. We accepted all people and all backgrounds. I have no doubt I could work with every single person here. I have worked on multiple teams and I have been a captain of high school sports teams; I have interned at my church; I have lots of stuff that works with people with different viewpoints. That is how we learn and how we grow as people.”
Approximately 15 minutes after his hearing began, the vote to confirm Cullen failed, leading to applause from some senators in the room.
After Cullen left the front of the room, the senator who leads the committee to nominate students called the vote a “slap in the face.”
Another student senator claimed there were students “laughing” while Cullen was talking, adding “a difference of opinion is a difference of opinion and that is what we are supposed to be doing here as a legislative body, even though we have disagreements with one another we come together and work towards a common goal and I want to make sure everyone has that in mind.”
Shortly after, three other students were unanimously approved to join the SGA with hearings all lasting under four minutes.
According to the bylaws of UMass’s SGA, no person qualifying for SGA membership may be denied membership on the basis of “political affiliation.”
In an op-ed in the student newspaper, Cullen called the questioning an “unfair interrogation.”
“The University of Massachusetts promotes ‘building a community of dignity and respect,’ yet the treatment I was given by my peers in the Student Government Association included anything but those qualities,” Cullen wrote. “It was a slap in the face to open-minded, welcoming individuals across campus.”
“Student government has been a passion of mine since high school; I love serving people and helping those around me succeed,” Cullen continued. “When I joined the UMass SGA as a wide-eyed freshman senator, I learned the procedures, played by the rules and took passion in all that I did.”
In an interview with The Daily Wire, Cullen said it is uncommon for a student to be denied a senate position and that he “could not think of a recent example.”
“Compared to other hearings that I’ve witnessed in the past, I’ve never seen so much dissent and hostility towards a nominee,” Cullen said. “I genuinely believe the SGA denied me on the basis of my political affiliations and Republican beliefs. For a legislative body, it’s just a shame that they can’t handle adding a senator who holds the beliefs of a major political party.”
At an SGA meeting on Monday, Chad Cordani, a political science student, said he was disappointed about the rejection of Cullen. “Universities were created to promote freedom of thought and the denial of Mr. Cullen from the SGA undermines everything that Universities and liberalism in a true sense represent,” said Cordani according to the Daily Collegian. Two other students reportedly voiced their disapproval of the vote, citing that they believed Cullen’s association with the College Republicans was the reason for the rejection.
Watch the hearing below: