UC Irvine CR members accuse leaders of ‘pandering to leftists’
- The split between members comes after former member George Novshadyan was disowned by his club after he made a tasteless joke on Facebook.
Several members of the University of California, Irvine College Republicans (CR) are alleging that the club’s leaders have disregarded their own principles in an effort to distance themselves from controversial comments made by a former member.
“I think they have no values, and they bring discredit to the name ‘Republican,’” CR member Marshall Roe, who attends a nearby community college, told Campus Reform. “It’s people like this who are the reason the Party is falling apart … it’s about titles for them, not values.”
“They’re getting really close with the radical-leftist Student Government,” agreed another club member who wishes to remain anonymous. “Part of it, I think, was them trying to get out of the spotlight, but part of it was them pandering to the left on campus.”
In early March, CR president-elect and student senator George Novshadyan posted a crude joke about Islam on a Facebook event page, prompting members of the Muslim Student Union to assemble at a student government meeting to demand his resignation from student government.
Novshadyan escaped impeachment following the initial hearing, but was hastily disowned by his own club, which issued a statement condemning his comments. Shortly thereafter, he was stripped of his position as president-elect and expelled from the club through an executive order by outgoing president Robert Petrosyan, thereby elevating vice president-elect Ariana Rowlands to the top spot.
Novshadyan subsequently lost a recall election in which he received no support from College Republicans, though the club did endorse Tracy La, a Bernie Sanders supporter whose ticket—“Committed to Change”—included several members of the MSU and espoused a heavily liberal platform, even describing themselves as “advocates for social justice” in their campaign logo.
CR member Roberto Guerrero, a conservative activist and Army Reservist from nearby Cypress College (which is part of the UCI CR orbit), told Campus Reform that he was appalled that the CR’s would endorse such a radical candidate, but even more so by the reactions of Rowlands and outgoing president Robert Petrosyan when he questioned them about the endorsement.
“The MSU at UCI is notorious … [and] Rob consistently told me before the executive order that he had been negotiating with the MSU,” Guerrero said. “I can tell you that if they were even slightly more radical, they would have been shooting at me overseas.”
After confirming La’s political inclinations through a quick scan of her Facebook page, Guerrero said he confronted Petrosyan and Rowlands separately with the information, but was brushed off in both cases.
“I sent that to Rob and asked him to explain it, and he said that while he didn’t agree with what she stood for, that there were no conservatives running. Actually, there were several conservatives running—including George,” Guerrero noted. “I asked Ariana the same question, and she said ‘I don’t need my actions questioned.’”
In screenshots of a group chat that were shared with Campus Reform, Petrosyan responds to concerns raised by several CR members about the endorsement, saying it was “hardly for ideological reasons,” and explaining that “there wasn’t a conservative running for that spot so we chose someone we had a long track record of working with and someone who helped our club tremendously in the last year.”
Rowlands elaborated on the reasoning further in her conversation with Guerrero, saying, “we need a good relationship with the ASUCI prez[.] [T]heir help is invaluable[.] [W]e all like Tracy[.] [S]he’s helped up [sic] before[.] [S]he’s a friend to the political community[.] [T]here’s no conservative running and she’s won and will continue to help us in the future.”
Roe, on the other hand, offered a simpler explanation for why CR leaders “started collaborating with the SJW’s,” saying, “What happened was nothing less than a Stalinist putsch. They decided in a non-democratic fashion to make Ariana president.”
Rowlands had initially sympathized with Novshadyan when he first came under fire for his Facebook post, citing his apology to the Muslim Student Union as sufficient retribution, only to reverse her position the same day.
“George, I’m sorry. After you apologized this should have gone away,” she wrote in a group chat between all the CR’s. “This is now completely them in the wrong.”
In the same conversation, Rowlands reiterated her support for Novshadyan, saying that since he had “apologized,” he “no longer looks like an asshole,” and declaring, “We can take this now to the media.”
Only a few hours after her initial comments, Rowlands then turned on Novshadyan, saying her political career would be “in jeopardy” if word got out of her involvement in his case.
“Please let’s mitigate this. It’ll look horrible for both sides,” Rowlands pleaded. “If this goes national I’m not going to put my political future in jeapordy [sic].”
Novshadyan replied to Rowlands, explaining that since she was not in attendance at his hearing her judgement might be skewed.
“It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong it matters what narrative is told,” she replied, insisting that Novshadyan now keep his matters private.
When pressed by other members, Rowlands explained that no groups on campus would want to be affiliated with the CR’s if its tension with the Muslim Student Union were made public.
Former CR member Nick Gallo, however, believes Rowlands’ about-face was inspired by a phone call she received on the evening of Novshadyan’s hearing while several CR members were discussing how to handle the situation.
“Ariana got a call from a guy who’s an officer for the College Democrats, and then just flipped. She stepped outside for 60 seconds, then comes back and does a complete 180,” he recalled. “I think it was this guy who told her to stand down and not go to the media.”
Other CR members independently corroborated Gallo’s account, saying they too have suspicions that Rowlands was swayed by concerns expressed by liberal friends.
“I think a lot of it was just her trying to appease the leftists on campus, like the MSU and the Student Government president,” Gallo opined. “I think part of it has to do with wanting to maintain friendships with other clubs, but that part of it was also about trying to get benefits, because some of the other groups had organized debates that got them a lot of publicity.”
Petrosyan had also supported Novshadyan’s case at the outset, and even encouraged him to stand his ground, but later decided to strip him of his office and remove him from the club.
“George, don’t let them win. What problem did they have with your apology?” Petrosyan wrote before eventually informing Novshadyan that he “wrote up the executive order” for his impeachment, adding that the board voted unanimously in favor of his removal.
“Part of it, I think, was them trying to get out of the spotlight, but part of it was them pandering to the left on campus,” said a CR member who asked to remain anonymous. “They’re getting really close with the radical-leftist Student Government, and I just don’t like it.
“I thought CR’s would silently support George, but they actually released a statement condemning George,” the student said, adding, “None of it is consistent with conservative values. The least they could have done was stay silent.”
“Basically, what you have is a guy who made an honest mistake, apologized for it, and they’re demanding his head on a platter,” Guerrero told Campus Reform. “The CR’s are going to be hosting Milo soon, and I find it ironic that they lashed out at George for a Facebook joke that is nothing compared to what Milo says.”
“They’re Stalinist in nature, and they sent George to the Gulag,” Roe said, adding, “they’ve aligned themselves with the enemies of free speech.”
Neither Rowlands nor Petrosyan had responded by press time to messages from Campus Reform requesting comment.
“You have to understand that if you’re going to be president of College Republicans, you can’t be afraid to be in the spotlight and talk about your ideas,” one CR member said in relation to the club’s handling of the Novshadyan controversy. “The biggest frustration for me is that none of them were in the spotlight; George was the only one being attacked.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete
Campus Reform reporter Anthony Gockowski also contributed to this story.