Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Clash of Conservatives


The University of Alabama College Republicans (UACR), a nationally-affiliated political student organization, split last week in what some have called an ongoing ideological struggle between two factions of the organization.

This conflict came to a headTuesday, Nov. 18, when elections were held for the organization’s executive board. Michael Cleveland replaced Maverick Flowers as chairperson; Maxwell Atherton replaced Will Stokes as executive director; Davis Smallwood replaced Michael Robertson as treasurer; and other executive positions were replaced as well. At the end of the night an entirely new board was elected in what ousted board members have said was an unconstitutional vote.Maverick Flowers, a senior majoring in political science who was stripped of his position as chairperson of UACR in Tuesday’s elections, said he believes a political split that began a year ago influenced this abrupt change in leadership.

Stephanie Petelos, former chairperson of UACR, voiced her support for same-sex marriage in a 2013 interview with The state party responded by attempting to strip her of her position on the party steering committee, a position she held by being a state chairperson for the organization. Though the motion ultimately did not pass, some members said it brought attention to the depth of the ideological divide within the Alabama Republican Party.

“The past four chairmen have been very controversial,” Flowers said. “We’re very moderate college Republicans, I guess they say we are not as conservative as most college Republicans across the state. So we’ve always kind of had a target on our back.”

Jeff Elrod, executive director of UACR during the 2012-2013 academic year, said ideological disagreements between the two factions of UACR were underscored by the same-sex marriage debate.

“The biggest gripe they have against Maverick is that he is moderate to left-leaning on the issue of same-sex marriage,” Elrod said. “This is personally motivated.”

Michael Cleveland, newly-elected chairperson of UACR and a junior majoring in accounting and political science, said the change in leadership was not based on personal issues, but instead was for the betterment of the organization.

“This was not a personal thing with Maverick or anyone,” Cleveland said. “This was just, we saw that there needed to be changes in the organization, and that’s what we were here to do.”

Elrod and others, however, disagree, saying some members of the state party wish to censor those with opinions different than their own, and it has had a direct bearing on the campus organization.

“Anyone who disagrees with them on these issues, they want them out,” Elrod said.

Additionally, Elrod said that the state party is not happy with the increased diversity within the organization.

“They are worried that the more diverse the organization is, then their view and interpretation of the Republican platform is at stake,” Elrod said.

Hilary Jones, a sophomore majoring in political science and history and the fundraising chair of UACR until Tuesday’s elections, said UACR’s newfound diversity is one of the factors that led to the creation of factions within the organization.

“They don’t like diversity at all,” Jones said. “If you look at a picture of the state executive board, it literally looks like a bunch of old white guys.”

Jones said the faction of UACR that held the elections has a personal agenda that spurred them to stage what he considers to be a coup.

“For them to have a personal vendetta against him because they don’t think he’s Republican enough, and then take that personal vendetta out on the other members of College Republicans underneath him, is really immature and deplorable and not fair,” she said. “And that’s exactly what this is.”

Flowers said another factor that may have caused this abrupt change in leadership is an internal poll that was taken by members of UACR, which seemed to show that the organization’s membership leaned slightly left on certain social issues. He said the results of the poll did not sit well with some members of the party.

“We had a question for debate, and we made kind of like a survey to highlight one of the questions we were going to be asking in the debate was about an education law. So we were trying to see where our membership lied on the spectrum of that,” Flowers said. “Apparently it wasn’t to the state party and county party’s pleasing.”

Maxwell Atherton, newly elected executive director of UACR, said the results of the survey indicated a much larger problem within the organization.

“The club has, in the last couple of months, alienated some members, specifically with a survey that was taken that could be taken multiple times by members,” Atherton said. “There were stamps of the survey being taken in Montana and Alaska. The survey came through suggesting the club was pro-choice and for gay marriage. There really needs to be no reminder: Social conservatives represent a large base here on this campus and here in this state.”

Flowers said the change in leadership violates the organization’s most current constitution. According to the 2014-2015 constitution, elections must be called by the executive board and held between March 1 and April 15. According to the 2005 version of the constitution, which Cleveland said was the only valid version, elections must be called by the executive board and held between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15. Flowers said he found out The SOURCE only had the 2005 version on file and worked to update the document. Atherton said the 2014 version was never approved or discussed in a meeting.

Not only did the executive board not call for the elections, Flowers said, but they weren’t notified that elections would be taking place, which is in direct conflict with both versions of the UACR constitution.

“They just completely hijacked the entire organization,” he said. “They have no grounds for what they did besides what they claimed as the constitution.”

Regardless of which version was used, Elrod said Tuesday’s elections were unconstitutional because the executive board did not call for them.

“This election that took place this past week was not called by the executive board,” Elrod said. “It was called by the faculty advisor, who is not even the current advisor.”

Flowers said George Hawley, a professor of political science, became faculty advisor for UACR last semester but, as with their constitution, The SOURCE didn’t have the most current information in their system.

“We changed advisors to Dr. George Hawley in the spring, but they didn’t have their online advisor change form up-to-date,” Flowers said. “I found that out a couple of weeks ago when the old advisor approached me still.”

Cleveland said Jamey Clements, a professor of engineering, is still the organization’s advisor, despite claims that this has changed.

“The faculty advisor was supposed to be elected as one of us, in front of the members. That did not happen,” Cleveland said. “It was still pending, therefore it was Jamey Clements who was the advisor.”

The Crimson White reached out to Clements Thursday afternoon, but did not receive a response as of publication time.

Hawley said he received an email Thursday morning from Kirk D. Walter, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement, stating that he was no longer faculty advisor to the organization.

According to the email, The SOURCE was in contact with the College Republican Federation of Alabama (CRFA), which confirmed that Clements was still officially faculty advisor to UACR. Additionally, the email stated that according to the chairperson of the CRFA, Cole Lawson, “the slate of candidates elected on November 18th were elected properly in accordance with applicable policies and procedures.”

The Crimson White reached out to Walter for comment Thursday, but did not receive a reply as of publication time.

Hawley said he was confused by the amount of outside influence that the organization has recently been receiving.

“I’m somewhat baffled at the degree to which outside groups are invested in a college club,” he said.

Flowers said Clements and Dalton Dismukes, central vice chairperson of the College Republican Federation of Alabama, were the ones who called for Tuesday’s elections.

“I was told that Dalton Dismukes, who’s the central vice chairman, which covers the central region of Alabama College Republican chapters, was going to hold elections, which they have no authority to do so from their constitution nor ours,” he said. “The advisor has no authority over elections either.”

Flowers said he feels Dismukes and Clements’ intent was to hold elections in a manner that would only allow their preferred candidates to be elected to leadership positions.

“They wanted to have it where they could get their people there, and none of the general membership knew about it, and no one else had a chance to run a campaign or build their own support network,” he said.

The Crimson White reached out to Dismukes Friday, but did not receive a response as of publication time.

Flowers said this is not the first time this semester that UACR has experienced a situation like this.

“This is the second time they’ve tried to throw a little coup election,” he said. “The first time was the night before election night on November 3rd.”

That night, he said, as many as 25 people who were unfamiliar to him arrived at a regular meeting wearing Alabama GOP stickers. They all immediately paid the $10 dues to become part of the organization and stated that they were there to vote, though no elections were scheduled.

“One was an intern for ALGOP, one was a girl who was an intern with ALGOP when I was there who is currently an employee there, and they were all told by a former employee to come to our meeting to vote in an election,” Flowers said.

Flowers said this group of people mostly consisted of Alpha Chi Omega members who were told by an alumna of their sorority, Taylor Dawson, to come to the UA College Republicans meeting to vote.

The Crimson White reached out to Dawson Sunday morning, but did not receive a response before publication time.

Marie Tucker, vice president of chapter relations and standards for Alpha Chi Omega, sent an email to sorority members at 3:26 p.m. Nov. 3 offering incentives to show up to the UACR meeting that night.

The beginning of the email reads, “I’ve been in contact with Taylor Dawson, AXO alumna who graduated in May, and we have some lovely information for everyone! It is Election Day Eve! In the spirit of Election Day, I am offering bonus positive points to anyone who goes to the College Republicans meeting tonight and pays membership dues ($10 in cash) to join.”

Flowers said when that night’s meeting took place and there was talk of an election, he shut the meeting down because impromptu elections of that nature would have been unconstitutional.

“There was no election called for that night, so they were just literally incentivized to come vote in a coup election that no one knew about, including the executive committee ourselves,” Flowers said.

Atherton said new members coming to a meeting and paying their dues did not conflict with the organization’s constitution.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “It’s constitutional.”

Cleveland said it was simply a group of people who wanted to take the initiative to become a part of UACR on their own accord.

“It was just people wanting to get involved,” Cleveland said.

Flowers said this is not the case.

“The funny thing was, you know, obviously you figure if they were really trying to get involved, you gotta pay dues then you’d sign up for a campaign or something,” he said. “The ones we asked, ‘Are you interested in working on a campaign?’ they were like, ‘No, I don’t think we’re going to do that.’”

Laura Carr, previous secretary of UACR and a senior majoring in political science, said Dawson encouraged members of Alpha Chi Omega to attend this meeting while she was employed by the state party. She said this, coupled with their previous attempts to stifle left-leaning views within the organization, such as the situation with Petelos, indicates that the change in leadership of the organization was influenced by a higher power in the state party.

“This was obviously a planned coup by the state party,” she said.

Flowers said that the state organization did not approve of his moderate views on social issues, which is why he believes they found it necessary to intervene in the organization.

Cleveland said the decision to change leadership was not made out of disapproval for Flowers’ ideals, but was instead made to better the organization as a whole.

“It was a failing organization, period,” Cleveland said. “Their membership had gone down 90 percent in the last two years, they were doing nothing to bring membership up, and we felt like something needed to be done about it.”

However, Flowers said UACR has made great strides in recruiting members over the past few years because of its increased visibility on campus.

“What I tried to do this year was be the most inclusive college Republican group we’ve had ever,” he said.

He said that membership for UACR has recently been at an all-time high.

“Our membership boosted from going from 8 to 12 members on average for the past, like, 30 years to 20 plus or 40 members at some meetings,” he said. “So membership spiked.”

Flowers said he has put in tremendous effort to increase diversity within the organization.

“I went and spoke to Honors College classes, got kids from the Honors College, kids on debate team, different ethnic diversity. We’ve had homosexual members for the past three years now,” Flowers said. “We’ve done a lot of good reaching out for diversity.”

Jinnie Christensen, a freshman majoring in political science and previous press secretary of UACR, said more than 60 members showed up to the year’s first meeting, which is a substantial increase from past years.

“Obviously there is not a problem with the leadership if they were able to get 60 kids to come, which is quadruple the size it was the year before,” she said.

Cleveland said the goal of UACR under this new administration is to overhaul the way the organization operates.

“We are changing the way that we do business,” he said. “Obviously, under the previous administration, it was not working. So we are going to be changing the way that we do business with the College Republicans.”

Flowers said he is most upset about the situation because he said it is ultimately the responsibility of the University to protect student organizations from situations such as this.

“There shouldn’t be this many external influences affecting a student organization at the University,” Flowers said. “The student who participates in a student organization at this University should be protected by the University from external influences and factors regardless of political affiliation.”

Scott Whitehouse, a senior majoring in public relations and previous vice chairperson of UACR, said he hopes to see a new round of valid elections come out of this situation.

“We are all graduating in May, so I’m completely fine with the torch being passed on to somebody else, but in the correct manner,” he said. “I want a fair election.”

Cleveland said that it is already clear how this situation will end.

“The University and the CRFA all recognize me as the chairman and my administration,” he said. “This is the outcome.”

On Friday at 3 p.m., the ousted UACR executive board met with Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Lisa L. Dorr to file a harassment complaint against Clements and Dismukes for the way they have been treated.

“They are going to look in to what they want to do about that as a University,” Flowers said. “She is also going to look into what the University wants to do about this whole hijacking of elections and the harassing atmosphere of the student organizations with the external influences.”

Whitehouse said the steps that the ousted executive board of UACR are taking to seek help from the University are not meant to ruffle feathers within the organization, but instead to rectify an unfair situation.

“I’m not here to step on any toes, but I feel like mine are being smashed,” he said.

Cleveland said he is unaware of any harassment taking place within the organization.

“I can say there has been no harassment,” he said. “We have done everything by the books. There’s been paper trails with emails and everything, there’s been no harassment though, as far as I know of.”

Flowers said it will be at least two weeks before the group will receive notice from Dean Dorr about actions that the University will take, if any, to intervene in this situation.

Editor’s Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Cole Lawson saying that Laura Carr said “Lawson encouraged members of Alpha Chi Omega to attend this meeting while she was employed by the state party.” This was printed in error. The line was referring to Taylor Dawson and should have read “Dawson encouraged members of Alpha Chi Omega to attend this meeting while she was employed by the state party.” 

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