A group of Columbia University College Republicans members held an off-the-record meeting on Sunday night to discuss how to move forward after members expressed significant dissatisfaction with club elections and recent executive board action.
CUCR originally scheduled a meeting for Sunday night to swear in next year’s board members, but the meeting was canceled on advice from Public Safety and a Student Government Office representative.
According to current CUCR President Kate Christensen, BC ’14, the official meeting was canceled because of threats made to members of the executive board.
“We did hear a conflation of threats, many of which I thought were empty, but I’m not going to take physical threats lightly,” Christensen said.
A group of CUCR members who were frustrated with the way the election was conducted circulated a 2,000-word statement of grievances, which was intended to be delivered at the originally scheduled CUCR meeting and then first published on Bwog.
“I am not convinced that this is the voice of our club,” Christensen said in an email early Monday morning. “By its militancy, it seems to me that it is the voice of a small faction of people who are attempting to undermine the hard-won legitimacy of CUCR. That said, I look forward to hearing the concerns of members that will be brought up in tonight’s town hall, and working towards viable solutions to address those concerns.”
CUCR President-Elect Eyvana Bengochea, CC ’16, echoed Christensen’s sentiment of moving past the conflict. “We need to work out any grievances that are left and work together moving forward,” she said.
The statement was originally intended to be read aloud at the meeting to the executive board, and was not leaked with the consent of everyone involved in writing it.
“The sending of that to Bwog was not a collective action,” CUCR member Victoria Fernandez Grande, SEAS ’17, said about the letter.
After this year’s executive board elections, members alleged vote-stacking in favor of Bengochea.
“The shock began in the election room,” CUCR member Benjamin Sweetwood, GS ’16, said. “I don’t think we understood how we would unify at that point.”
One of the main concerns raised was a discrepancy between the voting requirements stated in the CUCR constitution and how the elections were carried out. The constitution states that all members who have attended “at least two (2) CUCR events in attendance may vote except the Executive Board official presiding over the election,” without specifying the type of event that qualifies. However, an email sent to the CUCR general body prior to the elections said that voters had to have attended two general body meetings and specified that parties and co-sponsored events would not count.
“In the constitution it says that the executive board interprets it,” Fernandez Grande said. “Then arbitrarily it was decided that would mean two CUCR events.”
Since the elections, Christensen said that she has sent emails to the general body inviting conversations about the elections, but had only received two responses requesting a town hall as of Sunday night.
Some members said Christensen’s actions are inadequate.
“They have not said anything more than that she said please send your concerns to the board via email,” Nicole Santoro, CC ’15 and a deputy copy editor for Spectator, said.
“I can totally see how people think that I was trying to squash their voices, but if they don’t make their voices heard,” Christensen said, “how am I supposed to read their minds and make space for them to have a conversation?”
A general body meeting will be held on Monday at 10 p.m. in Hamilton Hall to address members’ concerns. The meeting will officially be a Student Governing Board town hall because it will be moderated by SGB representatives.
The executive board still intends to uphold the election results.
“I think the general overall sentiment within the club is that a revote is desirable,” Santoro said.
“This group is looking for fairness, we’re looking for what’s just. We want to protect our club,” Sweetwood added.
However, Bengochea thinks that instead of focusing on the removal of the newly elected board, the goal of the club should be centered on the future.
“Moving forward, the energy should be on making the club succeed and not destroying it,” Bengochea said.