UCI attempts to walk back CR suspension following outrage

The University of California, Irvine College Republicans chapter is challenging its administration on the grounds that it exploited a technicality to oust conservative voices from campus.

Earlier this week, members of the CR chapter were informed that their group had been suspended from campus for an entire year for failing to provide proof of insurance for private security guards hired to protect Milo Yiannopoulos during his event nearly a month earlier. The news, however, came just four hours after CR President Ariana Rowlands discussed the prospect of bringing Yiannopoulos back to campus in a private meeting with administrators.

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In an email sent to CR Chairman Emeritus Rob Petrosyan shortly after the meeting, the school states that his “failure to provide insurance for service providers” has resulted in his club’s “immediate suspension.”

However, in a statement released Tuesday evening, hours after the initial story had blown up on social media, the school said the club had “not been suspended,” but had merely lost its privilege to host events on campus.

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“Contrary to inaccurate news reports, the College Republicans at UCI have not been suspended,” the statement claims, even though prior emails sent to CR members had explicitly used the word “suspended.”

UCI Senior Director of Media Relations Cathy Lawhon later conceded to Campus Reform that the initial emails were “poorly worded,” saying that the suspension only applies to the group’s ability to reserve space on campus.

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Lawhon added that the group can “sponsor speakers in space that is not booked through Student Center and Event Services, they can pass out pamphlets and raise money on the Ring Mall (a designated area on campus for tabling) with other clubs, [and] they can elect officers.

“The only club privilege they don’t have now is booking space through Student Center and Event Services,” she added. The Student Center and Event Services webpage explains that reservations for “most venues” must be made through its offices, but that certain venues affiliated with specific departments can be reserved through those departments directly.

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The CRs, however, contend that losing such a privilege effectively renders the club obsolete since its main purpose is to host events on campus and reserve space for group meetings.

“UCI administration has recently claimed that our club is not suspended, and is merely barred from holding meetings and reserving rooms. However, as with any other club, our function is to meet and exercise our freedom of assembly, so such a suspension is an act of least resistance,” Petrosyan explained in a press release, charging that administrators “have banned our club from operating to save themselves the trouble of dealing with opposing views and immature leftist protesters.”

As a result, CR chapters from all over the country have created a petition in support of their fellow Republicans that will be sent to UCI’s administration. At press time, the petition had garnered 850 signatures in about 17 hours, just short of its goal of 1,000 signatures.

“This blatant display of bias against the University of California, Irvine College Republicans is a shameful violation of these students’ civil liberties,” CR National Committee Chairwoman Alex Smith commented in a press release provided to Campus Reform. “Our nation’s universities, and particularly those that are taxpayer funded, ought to be places where a diversity of thought finds a comfortable home, rather than where unaccountable bureaucrats unfairly malign students based on a certain agenda.”

Notably, the group had previously hosted David Horowitz on campus without being required to provide proof of insurance, nor was it penalized for not doing so.

Lawhon explained that the school’s decision had nothing to do with Yiannopoulos’ appearance on campus and that he would be welcomed back.

“This is not about Milo,” she insisted. “He can come back any time.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski