This post has been updated.
The New York Federation of College Republicans acted Sunday to revoke its recognition of the Cornell Republicans, calling it “unacceptable” for the party-affiliated organization to endorse Independent candidate Gary Johnson for president.
On Friday, the Cornell Republicans issued a statement announcing that they would break from their party to support Johnson’s ticket, a decision they described as a driven by both the diversity of the club’s ideological makeup and an adherence to conservative values.
Under pressure from the New York federation, the Cornell Republicans were confronted with two options — they could either revoke their endorsement of Johnson or see their own recognition revoked. Club leadership refused to retract their support of the Libertarian candidate.
The New York Federation of College Republicans voted to take “swift action” in light of this endorsement, by revoking the credentials of the Cornell chapter for the fall semester. This conclusion was reached by a 6-3 vote, carried out by the federation’s chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer and six regional chairs.
The Cornell Republicans may apply to reform in the spring and individual members may apply for individual credentials, the federation’s statement said. In the meantime, the club may be unable to operate normally, a penalty that could have severe impact on new member recruitment and general funding.
Olivia Corn ’19, the Cornell Republicans’ chair, said that despite possible limitations, club leadership is committed to doing everything possible this fall to recruit new members and “resume business as usual” — with a small name change.
In a statement Saturday, the Cornell Republicans announced that “after being threatened with a lawsuit” they will temporarily change the group’s name to the Cornell Conservatives.
The revocation of credentials also dictates an organization or member’s eligibility to participate in “any Federation programming, including but not limited to our Academic Fellowship and any Federation events” the federation said. These events, including the Fall Conference, feature prominent Republican speakers and have been visited regularly by the Cornell Republicans in the past.
“The Cornell Republicans will stand by our principles and not fall in line with a Trump henchman,” said Executive Director Austin McLaughlin ’18, responding to the revocation.
The original call to revoke the credentials of the Cornell Republicans was issued by the federation’s chair, Eli Nachmany, New York University — who indicates on his LinkedIn profile that he is currently working for Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. Cornell Republicans Chair Olivia Corn ’19 said she was “personally outraged” that Nachmany called for the vote without attempting to contact the club’s executive board.
“I am looking into whether or not [the federation] has the legal ability to [revoke recognition],” Corn said Saturday. “All I ask of the Cornell community is that they stand behind us during this difficult time in our fight for free speech and moral principles.”
In a statement responding to the endorsement’s backlash, the Cornell Republicans continued to maintain that Johnson is “the most fiscally conservative” candidate in the race, and stressed that the endorsement was made by popular decision.
“Whether you’re a Libertarian, a disenchanted Democrat who feels that party has shifted too far to the left, a social conservative, a moderate independent, or a business Republican, you have a home here,” the statement says.
While many college chapters of Republicans both nationally and locally have wavered on whether to endorse nominee Donald Trump — some renouncing his candidacy outright — this severe state-wide reaction to a club’s decision is unprecedented.
On Aug. 30, the Ithaca College Republicans issued a statement asserting that they could not support Trump for president, blatantly saying, “We don’t support every Republican candidate.” However, the group stopped short of endorsing a candidate outside of the Republican party and affirmed its commitment to work for Republican candidates at other levels of government, thus avoiding the ire of the state federation.
The New York Federation explained the strict penalty saying that it would have been acceptable for Cornell Republicans to refuse to endorse Trump, but it is inadmissible for the group to support any other party’s candidate.
On its website, the New York Federation of College Republicans lists its first two priorities as to promote Republican ideals across college campuses and to ensure Republicans are elected at all levels of government. The federation claims to be composed of over 1,000 student Republicans across New York.
“We feel that this is a fair and measured, but firm response to the Cornell chapter’s decision,” the federation’s statement said of the decision.
The Cornell Republicans responded to this “fair and measured” course of action by deriding what they called the hypocrisy of a party organization suppressing differing viewpoints when it claims devotion to free speech.
“For a group who claims to support free speech on college campuses, [the federation] seem to be suppressing a crucial debate that needs to take place for the sake of the survival of the Republican Party,” the statement argues.