Facing accusations that it impeached its former leader because he was gay, Duke University College Republicans waited Monday night to learn of the future of their club’s charter.
Former College Republicans Chairman Justin Robinette was impeached Wednesday by the executive board of the university’s College Republicans for what members say was poor leadership, misuse of funds and neglecting to coordinate events with UNC’s chapter, among other reasons.
Robinette has since filed a suit with the university’s student government, claiming he was impeached because he is gay.
His suit could lead to the revoking of the organization’s charter at Duke.
Club leaders came prepared to the student government’s trial court with copies of receipts, e-mails and statements from members of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, supporting their allegations against Robinette.
“They don’t have any ground to revoke us,” said Rachel Provost, chief of staff for the College Republicans at Duke.
Both sides testified separately before the court on the issue of whether the College Republicans created a hostile environment for Robinette that led to his impeachment. The trial was only open to the court and those testifying.
“The judiciary is on a fact-finding mission,” said Duke Student Body President Awa Nur.
Two of the justices, including the chief justice, recused themselves from the proceedings due to personal bias or involvement in the case. Another justice could not attend the proceedings for other reasons.
Duke Judiciary Chief Justice Matthew Straus, who recused himself because he had attended the impeachment meeting, said the decorum of the executive-board members at the impeachment meeting surprised him. He said in an interview that he asked them at the impeachment meeting, “Aren’t you embarrassed that the internal conflict is at such a high that you can’t have a discussion?”
If three of the four remaining justices vote in favor of Robinette, the case moves to the student government’s Senate. No agreement had been reached as of 12:30 a.m.
The Senate has the official power to revoke an organization’s charter, but it might not be able to take action because their last meeting is on Wednesday. The Senate must be given five days of notice before hearing the charges.
In such a case, the Senate would have to be called into special session to decide on the eligibility of the College Republicans’ charter.
Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said that the university is looking into the allegations. If the club’s charter is revoked by the Senate, he said he is unsure how the university would respond.
Sam Tasher, executive director for Duke’s College Republicans, said he found out a week ago that Robinette was gay but accusations of him mobilizing the rest of the board to impeach Robinette because of his sexuality are all fabricated.
“That didn’t have any influence on me,” he said. “We had disagreements, but there are a lot of people with disagreements.”
Cliff Satell, former vice-chairman of the university’s College Republicans and president of the Duke Conservative Union, said Tasher met with him prior to the impeachment and asked, “Oh, by the way, did you know Justin was gay? How do you feel about that?”
“I was surprised and caught off guard,” Satell said.
He said the organization has transitioned slightly more to the right and discrimination against Robinette could be a result of that.
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