Duke University’s student government made an unprecedented decision Wednesday night by voting to de-fund and de-charter the university’s College Republicans.
But it’s not over for the organization just yet.
The story so far
March 16: Robinette officially re-elected as chairman of Duke College Republicans.
March 27: Robinette elected as co-chairman of N.C. Federation of College Republicans
April 14: College Republicans’ executive board amends the impeachment process. Robinette is impeached.
April 20: Duke’s student judiciary begins the trial – Robinette vs. Duke College Republicans.
April 20: Duke University administrators said an internal audit of the organization was conducted and no evidence of Robinette misusing funds was found.
April 21: Judiciary rules in favor of College Republicans, saying the organization did not discriminate against Robinette.
April 22: Duke Senate decided not to suspend or de-charter the College Republicans. It also asked all student organizations to draft non-discrimination policies.
End of May: anti-gay graffiti discovered on the East Campus Bridge at Duke University.
June: Bridget Gomez creates a Facebook group called “Petition to Duke University to Take Action Against the DCR.”
June: Robinette and some of his supporters receive anonymous death threats.
August: Robinette and seven others file another lawsuit with the Duke student judiciary against the College Republicans.
Aug. 29: Duke student judiciary denies Robinette and seven other plaintiffs a hearing.
Sept. 8: Duke’s student government votes to de-fund and de-charter the College Republicans. The bill needs to be signed, and the act approved by the Student Organization Finance Committee.
The senate’s bill to de-fund the club still needs to be signed into law by Duke Student Government President Mike Lefevre, and the de-chartering act needs to be approved by the Student Organization Finance Committee — an extension of the senate that deals with recognizing and funding student organizations.
“Nothing has been decided on this yet,” said Lefevre, who has two days to veto the senate’s decision. “This has just happened.”
For months, the club’s former chairman Justin Robinette, who has claimed since April that he was impeached by the organization’s executive board for being gay, has worked with his supporters to compile evidence and file complaints against the organization.
“I don’t feel vindicated, but I do feel humbled by the senate’s decision last night,” Robinette said.
Senators were presented discriminatory e-mails and anonymous threatening messages received by Robinette and others, who have said they were harassed by the members of the club.
Although Lefevre said he was shocked by the evidence, he said he met with the club’s Chief of Staff Rachel Provost on Thursday in hopes that members would consider an internal recognition of their wrongdoings before he has to sign off on the de-funding.
“But I can’t coerce or create any kind of change,” he said.
The Student Organization Finance Committee, the body now in charge of the pending de-chartering, also met Thursday.
“We’re getting everyone on the same page,” said Max Tabachnik, chairman of the committee. “We don’t have any details yet or a particular timeline.”
The senate’s actions Wednesday came after Robinette and eight other plaintiffs were denied a hearing by the student judiciary last month on allegations of harassment and discrimination. The judiciary had ruled that those allegations fell outside of its jurisdiction.
Some are now questioning whether a senate meeting was a fair setting for a decision of such magnitude.
“The senate is not an appropriate fact-finding body,” said the student judiciary’s Chief Justice Matthew Straus.
“They don’t have standards for evidence or standards for truth. I don’t think either side was given an adequate setting,” Straus said.
Chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans John Eick said the judiciary’s trial in April, which ruled in favor of the College Republicans, should have closed the case.
“It seems to me to be an overkill,” Eick said. “Where does this stop?”
If Lefevre and the Student Organizational Finance Committee approve the senate’s decision, the College Republicans will still be a “recognized” organization and will be allowed to recruit and hold meetings using their own funds.
Members of the club could not be reached for comment.
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