Over the past few weeks, the Amherst College Republicans (ACR) have been facing immense pressure from their fellow students over an incident involving messages in their club’s group chat by people who had never attended a meeting.
The controversy was sparked after Amherst College’s "Common Language Document" was released last month. The Daily Wire previously reported that the document was distributed by the college’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The document laid out definitions about words from "capitalism" to "legal/illegal." The college later removed the document from the school’s website, claiming that it was not vetted properly.
Following the release, ACR provided a statement to The Daily Wire about the document.
"While we appreciate the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s efforts to make all feel comfortable on campus, we believe they failed to reach their lofty goals today," the club said. "We believe in Capitalism and we believe in American Exceptionalism, yet, on the school’s website, these terms are attacked with derision. We believe in the sanctity of the rule of law, yet, on the school’s website, we are told this is 'highly racialized,'" the statement said.
Soon after, messages from the club’s GroupMe were leaked and shared around campus, causing outrage. The messages were from several people making fun of the school’s Queer Resource Center, transgenderism, and the Common Language Document (pictured below).
In a statement to The Daily Wire, ACR said they had over 120 people in the GroupMe but only 20 to 30 people actually show up to meetings and are active members. They claim that anyone who signed up to join the club was in the group chat, and the students who posted the messages in question have never been to a meeting.
On April 2, the student judicial council reached out to the executive board notifying them that the Association of Amherst Students filed a complaint against the club.
"They find ACR’s recently circulated GroupMe activity to be in violation of the AAS Budgetary Committee’s Nondiscrimination Policy. It reads: 'All students and organizations receiving full or partial funding from the AAS may not discriminate in any manner based on arbitrary criteria, including, but not limited to, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, economic status, nationality, or ethnic origin. Special exceptions may be made by a majority vote of the Senate,'" the email said.
The council explained that the hearing would be private and provided the date and time for a hearing, adding that "it is required that you send at least one and up to three representatives at the hearing."
At the hearing, attendees voiced their concerns, and some even called for defunding ACR, and giving their funds to the Queer Resource Center, according to the student paper.
On April 8, the student judicial council sent an email announcing their unanimous determination that the club violated the Student Honor Code and that the executive board failed to uphold the Association of Amherst Students Constitution.
"Therefore, we have taken the following steps to ensure our Student Honor Code and AAS constitution is followed and respected," the email said, listing steps such as reporting the club to the Office of Community Standards, and amending the AAS constitution to require "sensitivity training" for all executive board members of student clubs.
To punish the club, the council ruled that all members of the ACR executive board "must step down from their positions and will not be permitted to hold an E-board position in any [registered student organization] for the remainder of their time at Amherst." They also demanded that if the club wanted to continue to be recognized as a student organization, they "must release a statement in the Amherst Student affirming that they condemn hate speech specifically with regards to the widely circulated incident from their GroupMe before the end of the Academic Year."
The student newspaper’s editorial board applauded the decision, writing, "The sanctions on ACR create potential for genuine growth and learning from harmful, bigoted behavior. This punishment is neither too much nor too little."
In response, the ACR released a statement saying they found issue with the ruling and that their executive board members would not step down for the actions of people who had never attended a meeting.
"We also have a number of issues with some procedural elements of the JC hearing: that it was held in private, that the ruling applied to people not present or able to defend themselves, and that the defendants were not given the requisite 48 hours notice prior to the hearing," the College Republicans stated. "We believe that the fact that AAS served as both prosecutor and judge, in this case, is a clear conflict of interest. In addition, we worry about the effect that the ruling would have on other clubs at this school whose executive boards also contain members of the ACR executive board."
"Finally, we find it improper for JC to condemn the entire club for the actions of two people (neither of whom had attended a single meeting this entire year)," the club added.
Amherst’s president, Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, chimed in on the matter in a student-wide email.
"Neither curiosity nor respect were in evidence in the GroupMe chat among some members of the Amherst College Republicans when their posts were widely shared last week," Biddy wrote. "The posts ridicule not only the Common Language Guide but also particular members of our staff. Once public, the mocking and derision did harm to those who were targeted and to the entire community—as we are seeing."
Biddy added that she wished "those who exchanged the posts had immediately expressed regret for the hurt that the now-public posts inevitably caused and are still causing."
In regards to the judicial council ruling, Biddy wrote that she has concerns:
"The student government, in its attempt to rebuke the inexcusable behavior of some individuals in the club, has condemned the entire Republican club, further escalating the situation. The Judiciary Council, for its part, has announced punitive measures against the leadership and the next e-board of the club. I have several concerns about the council’s decisions that my colleagues in student affairs have made available. Karu Kozuma has asked the Senate to review those concerns."
Biddy added that the council does not have the authority to make decisions based off of the Student Code of Conduct, but only the Office of Community Standards does.
A member of ACR told The Daily Wire that they believe the ruling by the judiciary council was an attempt to dissolve their club because "if enforced, [it] would require the resignation of the entire executive board and any would-be appointees," the student said. "Because the majority of our active members fall into one of these categories, this would leave the club without any leadership for the foreseeable future, and, in effect, the club would cease to exist."
The student also said that their club will be forcibly dissolved if they do not comply with the ruling.