Student Association is charged with chartering student groups. Once chartered, a group can receive funding from SA and able to reserve rooms in the Student Union and other places for free.
On September 29, TU for Bernie Sanders, a student group dedicated to promoting the presidential candidate and his ideas, was denied a charter.
The vote was nine for and thirteen against issuing a charter. While groups have been denied a charter by the Student Organization Committee (SOC), this appears to be the first time that Senate itself has done so, at least in the last four years, if not longer.
The senators who voted against the charter primarily had a concern about an organization being dedicated to one individual. Some senators were concerned that a group dedicated to Sanders alone would discourage other students, including those who lean left but may not support Sanders, from joining.
For instance, Miranda Dabney, an at-large senator and SOC member said, “While I love the idea of students on campus getting involved in politics, I think that chartering an organization with such a narrow scope (rather than, say, a Young Democrats or Socialists Club) will only appeal to a very narrow group of students….”
Concern over the name was a common theme among those who were against issuing a charter.
According to the SOC guidelines, a potential organization has to be able to “uphold a viable presence on campus.” Brett Baumgartner, an at-large senator, believes that in order to be viable, “an organization needs to have a scope longer than the next six to thirteen months.”
Presidential campaigns, obviously, come to an end. If Sanders does poorly in the primaries, he could be out of the race by the middle of next semester. Even if he never loses a single primary, the general election is next November.
Many senators were worried that an organization dedicated to Bernie Sanders alone wouldn’t last even to next December, if that long. This is why many were hoping for a name change.
In discussing why a different name for the organization would be preferable, Baumgartner said, “Organizations that are able to maintain a viable presence are structured around certain values and ideals and not a single person. That way, the club can be around a lot longer than [a] campaign.”
Obviously, not all senators agreed with this interpretation. Whitney Cippola, a senator for the Arts and Sciences college and Chair of Government Operations Committee (GOC), noted that while other senators felt the Bernie Sanders organization was too narrow, “there are many clubs with charters that are very specific in nature.” When asked about specific examples, Cippola said that Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX, pronounced “bucks”), a Christian fraternity, qualifies. It was recently chartered despite a religious membership requirement.
As to the potential problem with viability, she said the other senators “failed to recognize that Bernie Sanders will not just drop dead if he doesn’t win the presidential race. He would still be a person in the political realm, still doing things worth discussing. The club plans to stay active, and it wants to continue to be a place to discuss the ideology of Bernie Sanders, as well as politics in general.”
She also said that after viewing their Facebook page and seeing that 44 people signed up to go to a debate party they were going to host, she “was thoroughly impressed with this club’s organization and the overwhelming positive response of the student body.”
Jeffrey Bacon, the organization’s co-founder and president, was frustrated with the decision.
Speaking of the senators who voted against his organization being chartered, he said, “They suggest that we are limited in scope, and yet we are expanding membership and scheduling events that dwarf those of other organizations. They ask us to look past the next year and into the future, and yet they charter and have chartered countless student organizations that have in short order become defunct.”
He believes Senate denied his charter based on fear of controversy. He further states, “We will not rename or change our purpose.”
Morgan Krueger, the group’s social media manager, believes that the name “TU for Bernie Sanders” actually offers a larger scope that can appeal to more people than “Young Democrats” because “Bernie appeals to more than just Democrats. We have independents in our group, and I myself grew up considering myself a Republican. We worried that labeling our group a Democratic group would exclude TU students who support Bernie but don’t affiliate themselves with the Democratic party.” She said that it was for this reason that the group does not want to change its name.
There will likely be an appeal to SA’s judicial branch.
Bacon says that “SA president Whitney House, many senators, and all of the officers within our own organization have implored me to appeal the decision.”
If they bring an appeal, the burden of proof would be on TU for Bernie Sanders. They would have to prove that Senate violated its governing documents.