By Joe Moresky and Matt Johnson
A defining pillar of what makes Fordham such a unique university is its tireless commitment to the ideals of Jesuit education. From our first classes to graduation, Rams are challenged to strive towards achieving social justice. Whether through the academic rigors that allow our hearts and minds to transform with renewed purpose or through the boundless opportunities New York City affords us, we are pushed to “set the world on fire.” We confront difficult issues and offer serious solutions. When faced with tragedy within the world, we are compelled to meet it with compassion. When shown injustice and oppression, we are stirred to right it.
That commitment includes political injustice, even at the collegiate level.
On Sept. 3, 2016, the New York Federation of College Republicans (NYFCR), the governing body responsible for all official College Republican chapters within New York state, voted to revoke the operating charter of the Cornell University College Republicans and remove the chapter’s official recognition as part of the national organization. This blacklists Cornell from participating in Federation-sponsored events, initiatives, academic fellowships and conferences and from receiving financial assistance from the Federation. The offense that merited such a dramatic response was Cornell’s chapter refusal to endorse Donald J. Trump, opting instead to back Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson in the upcoming presidential election out of deference to the majority opinion of its membership.
According to Cornell’s College Republicans’ official Facebook page, the 6-3 vote to revoke the chapter’s operating charter was rushed through the voting process taking place, “before [they] had a real chance to further explain [their] endorsement.” Until the New York Federation’s actions, Cornell was one of the oldest established chapters in the state.
As a current executive board member of Fordham’s own chapter of College Republicans, we are deeply saddened by the New York Federation’s heavy-handed response towards Cornell’s aversion to political expediency. The state leadership has made it readily apparent that a chapter’s intellectual dissent will be met with punishment. During an unconventional electoral cycle that has challenged what it even means to be a republican, the actions taken by the NYFCR have demonstrated it retains an incredibly superficial understanding of the ideological crisis the party faces.
We find it deplorable that any group of college students should be excommunicated from an organization in which they have spent years promoting conservative, not even necessarily republican, values. It is absurd that six members of the Federation’s board, one of whom is a paid Trump campaign staffer (a clear conflict of interest), cannot act with the same maturity as the RNC, instead opting to remove any members who do not mindlessly follow its rules, which were created by fellow college students with no real-world legitimacy or authority.
One might expect such punitive political strong-arming to come out of the legislative culture displayed in Albany, but certainly not from supposedly like-minded collegiate leaders. They serve as the official youth wing of the GOP, and as such have a special relationship with the Republican National Committee. While we understand the NYFCR’s obligation to the College Republican National Committee and the RNC, the actions the state leadership took were wrong. When modern conservatism is at such a flash-point of uncertainty, political retribution is the wrong path to take. It disenfranchises otherwise active millennial voters, and sets a horrific precedent for what local chapters can expect from future state leadership. When it has become almost a politically acceptable norm to not support the republican presidential nominee, the way forward cannot be to send any dissenters to the chopping block. At a time when millennials are not flocking towards the GOP, such a move seems almost an attempt to sabotage its collegiate base, when several universities from across the nation have also not endorsed Trump.
This internal witch-hunt stifles a national intra-party debate that must occur if the GOP is to enjoy a realistic future in American political discourse. As the future of the republican party, members of CR chapters must be allowed to openly participate. The only way to frame the direction the GOP will take is for deliberate discussion to take place in meeting halls on all college campuses, and for the freedom of expression and intellectual pursuit intrinsic to a liberal arts education to remain unhampered.
We urge the NYFCR and its Chairman, Eli Nachmany, to reassess its actions. Other chapters and their chairpersons across the state have voiced their displeasure over the actions taken by the Federation, both publicly and privately. If Mr. Nachmany cannot overcome his professional ties to the Trump campaign in order to govern the state chapters in an impartial and non-vindictive manner, we encourage him to reconsider his role in the organization.
Joe Moresky, FCRH ’17, is a political science major from East Meadow, New York.
Matt Johnson, FCRH ’17, is a political science from Palos Verdes, California.
The opinion stated in this piece does not represent the official opinion of College Republicans at Fordham University and should not be construed as such. It is that of the author’s alone.