It's a tough time to be a Republican at the University of Vermont. The Democrats control Congress, the Bush White House is under siege for firing U.S. attorneys and waging an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq - and last Tuesday, the Student Government Association officially de-recognized UVM's College Republicans club.
You could blame it on Newt Gingrich. The group borrowed $7000 from the SGA to pay for the former House Speaker's October 2005 appearance, and was unable to repay the loan.
According to College Republicans President Heather Baldyga, the club financed Gingrich's visit primarily through its annual SGA budget, but it needed the additional money to cover Gingrich's speaking fees. Baldyga declined to disclose the total charge for his visit. The Republicans intended to repay the $7000 through fundraising and ticket sales but came up short. An article in the student-run Vermont Cynic [College Republicans Shut Down ]reported that, as of last week, the group still owed $6548.
The SGA froze the club's accounts in November 2005. According to SGA Treasurer Jessica Banks, the Republicans had enough money left over from their subsequent budget allocations to cover the debt. However, their failure to raise the money on their own was a violation of the terms of the loan. The SGA granted the club two extensions but warned its officers that, if they didn't pay up by the end of February 2007, they'd lose their club status.
Banks is surprised that anyone cares about the disciplinary action. "We de-recognize clubs all the time," she says, noting that student groups have a tendency to disappear when their leaders graduate. "I'm not quite sure why people are latching on to this one."
But College Republicans President Baldyga laments the disintegration of the sole conservative political group at Groovy UV, calling it "an unfortunate loss" for the notoriously liberal campus. "There's no diversity anymore," she says.
Baldyga, a senior from Westfield, Massachusetts, joined the College Republicans in her freshman year. She took over as president in January, after the former president resigned. "She said she was busy," Baldyga recalls. She adds that her predecessor may not have wanted the demise of the club to happen on her watch.
Baldyga knew that coming up with the cash would be difficult. She only managed to scrounge up a couple of hundred dollars from alumni before the deadline.
Baldyga expects that a core group of conservatives will attempt to reconstitute the club - they're meeting on Wednesday, April 4, at 7 p.m. in Lafayette Hall.
But don't expect them to be called the College Republicans. These youthful right-wingers may prefer to depart from the increasingly unpopular party line. "'Republicans' sends off this alarm that you're with the Bush administration," Baldyga explains. She suggests College Libertarians and UVM Conservatives as possible alternatives. At UVM, she says, Republicans "get a bad vibe."