Members of the University of Oregon College Republicans said its members don’t endorse the Proud Boys during a Nov. 24 student government senate meeting. The group received criticism from UO students and organizations for attending a “Stop the Steal Rally” in Salem, which Proud Boys attended.
During the meeting, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon senate unanimously passed a resolution Nov. 24 condemning white supremacy after university groups and students called for student government to defund the College Republicans, who posted a photo of several members attending the rally.
The photo, posted on Instagram, is of six, mostly unmasked members of the University of Oregon College Republicans holding a “Donald Trump Making America Great Again” flag in front of a stage adorned with a large American flag, flanked on its sides by Proud Boys flags.
Ahead of the Nov. 24 senate meeting, ASUO Senator Nick Keough said the student government is aware of the controversy and is “actively working to respond.” He said the senate has not changed its stance on condemning white supremacy after previously condemning it in the past.
“We are exploring all avenues to holding this student organization accountable and will keep students updated as things progress,” Keough said.
UOCR President Will Christensen said that the club’s members attended the rally to “show our support for President Donald Trump and raise awareness of what we see as widespread irregularities in the 2020 U.S. general election.”
“Our efforts at this rally have nothing to do with an endorsement of the Proud Boys,” Christensen said during public comment. “Furthermore, this group has condemned, and always will condemn white supremacy, racism and all other similar heinous human prejudices.”
As of publishing time, the College Republicans have not commented after multiple emails.
The ASUO senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning white supremacy and requiring all ASUO-funded organization leaders to “attend cultural competency training to maintain their recognition status.”
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Proud Boys — a “self-described ‘western chauvinists’ group” — were founded by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. Nearby, Proud Boys have been present during protests in the Pacific Northwest since the Obama Administration. During the 2020 Presidential debates, President Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
On Oct. 25, the College Republicans shared an interview with the Texas Chapter of the hate group on Twitter, but the video has since been deleted.
Isiah De Alba, the club’s political director, said, “We are in no way, as a club, defending the Proud Boys in any way, shape or form.” He added that the club does not condemn the Proud Boys either.
“As an organization, we do our best to provide neutrality within our own political reason for the simple fact that not everyone who goes to our club meet or are associated with our club thinks the same,” he said.
Vince Hyunh, Communications Director for the UO College Democrats, said he thinks “it’s absolutely disgusting to remain neutral in the face of white supremacy.”
“It’s equivalent to remaining neutral in the face of Naziism,” Hyunh, a senior studying computer science, said.
The student group also listed a number of ASUO student conduct laws pertaining to mask mandates due to the pandemic that they believe the College Republicans violated.
The first conduct code they allegedly violated “demands that any clubs use of the [Incidental]-fee is predicated on the fact that they will allow anyone in regardless of personal traits, and the association with the Proud Boys and refusal to condemn or deny any affiliation seems like a direct violation of this,” UOCD President Tristan Waits said.
Referring to the third violation, Waits said, “We thought that fraternizing with Proud Boys and the promotion of aforementioned hate group is creating a hostile environment by associations with a group that discriminates upon a plethora of groups.”
About their funding, Asa Ward of the university’s Programs Finance Committee said that for fiscal years 2014-2015 and 2016-17, “they were 0-funded,” or didn’t receive any funds.
“There was no budget submitted for that FY and therefore no funds allocated,” Ward said.
During the 2019-20 fiscal year, the College Republicans received $500, Ward said. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, the group received $350.
This is not the first time that UOCR has come under scrutiny for ties to white supremacy.
Former UO student and member of UOCR Evan James McCarty was profiled by Rose City Antifa as a proven neo-Nazi in 2018. The Torch at Lane Community College published its own article on McCarty as well. The New York Times published a piece following a lawsuit alleging he harassed Taylor Dumpson, who became American University’s first Black student-body president.
The Instagram post instigated a heated dialogue between students, with many of the nearly 2,500 comments seeming to condemn the post and the group.
“I was really shocked that a university-affiliated group would post that, given that there were Proud Boys flags in the background,” Paula Costal Lagarde, a political science and international studies major, told the Emerald in an interview.
But she disagrees with the demand that the student organization should have their funding halted.
"They made a mistake, yes,” she said. “And they should be held accountable, but just defunding the group and getting rid of it as a whole is not the right path to follow.” Lagarde said they should be required to offer a public apology for the Instagram post.