Associated Students, Inc. President Jason Colombini feels that the push for closed membership for certain organizations is acceptable. “You don’t want someone else to blatantly ruin the ideals of a certain organization,” Colombini said.
In the midst of their fight to end a California State University executive order requiring club membership to be open to all students, the Cal Poly College Republicans are hosting events this week to bring awareness to free speech and intellectual diversity.
Two speakers sponsored by the College Republicans will come to campus this week, and the group will also create a symbolic representation of free speech in the form of destroying the Berlin Wall on Dexter Lawn on Wednesday.
“For me and for the club, it comes down to the fact that free speech is really at the root of everything we do, whether we realize it or not,” Honeycutt said. “If future generations don’t understand free speech rights, then that really puts them in jeopardy.”
Joe Cohn from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) will give a presentation on “First Amendment Issues on Campus” at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics. He will discuss the debate over open club membership and highlight cases of censorship at American colleges, according to the release.
Cohn will also discuss FIRE’s troubled history with Cal Poly. The foundation sued the university in 2004 on behalf of a student who faced judicial action after distribution flyers some students found offensive. Cal Poly settled the case out of court.
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro will come to campus Thursday to speak about “standing up against the left’s culture of fear and intimidation,” according to the release. Shapiro is editor-at-large at conservative news organization Breitbart News, and regularly appears on Fox News and CNN.
The College Republicans have come under fire in the past for bringing controversial speakers such as Ann Coulter to campus, but Honeycutt said he hopes this week will be different.
“Whenever something has ‘Republican Club’ attached to it, it instantly becomes controversial, unfortunately, even if it’s something like free speech, which everyone should be able to rally around,” College Republicans President Nate Honeycutt said. “I would hope people would come and hear what he has to say.”
Closed membership in clubs and organizations ultimately allows for groups to protect their core values and is just “common sense,” for some on-campus organizations, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Jason Colombini said.
Mustang News reported this week that the Cal Poly College Republicans are petitioning against a California State University policy to allow for restricted membership in their club. This came from fears that non-Republicans could join and intentionally sabotage the club’s conservative ideals.
“The Cal Poly College Republicans definitely bring up very valid points,” Colombini said. “I, personally, would like to be optimistic and hope that Cal Poly students don’t try to sabotage their peer’s organizations. But it could happen.”
Ending the policy could start with an official endorsement by ASI. The ASI Internal Review Committee reviews policies to see if there are any decisions that the Board of Directors could take passing a resolution in support of the challenge to the policy.
The ban on closed membership is a California State University (CSU) policy, but the College Republicans are advocating for exemptions for certain organizations. The ASI Board of Directors can pass a resolution in favor of having closed membership, but there is no plan to do so, Colombini said.
The final decision, however, comes from the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach.
“It’s a little different when it’s a system-wide level. We are one of 23 CSU schools. What we say still has an effect, it still matters to have your voice heard, but it’s not like what we say will necessarily happen,” Colombini said.
Colombini said he believes there is a valid reason to allow closed membership.
“The idea of an open membership is a good idea. You don’t want all organizations to turn into exclusive clubs,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see any organization feel that they could be infiltrated by people who disagree and want to change what their organization stands for. I don’t like the idea that an organization has the uncertainty that others could come in and change what they are all about.”
Currently, fraternities and sororities are the only CSU organizations that have closed membership based on gender.
“There are a few organizations where closed membership does make sense,” Colombini said. “You just have to be careful that you don’t go overboard and you have other organizations excluding people for reasons that wouldn’t affect what the organization is all about.”
The idea behind the poilcy is to not exclude people based on how they look, where they are from or their sexual orientation.
“I could see closed membership being appropriate for organizations such as fraternities, sororities, religious organizations and political clubs,” Colombini said. “I haven’t gone through all 300 clubs and said, ‘That one makes sense,’ or ‘That one doesn’t.’ But overarchingly, I feel like there should be open membership for all the rest.”