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Stanford College Republicans invites Mike Pence to speak on campus

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The Stanford College Republicans (SCR) has invited former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to speak on campus during winter quarter.

SCR’s invitation to Pence follows a string of controversial speakers invited by the group, including self-proclaimed Islamophobe Robert Spencer, far-right author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and Turning Point USA conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens. Each invitation has underscored the tension between free speech and community inclusion on campus. 

It is not clear whether Pence has accepted SCR’s invitation. An SCR representative did not respond to a request for comment, though SCR Financial Officer Stephen Sills wrote in a message to a group chat obtained by The Daily that it would be hosting Pence in Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 17. 

Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris confirmed in a statement to The Daily that “The Stanford College Republicans have proposed hosting former Vice President Mike Pence and are working closely with the Office of Student Engagement to complete the necessary processes. The group is securing funding, and after funding is secured, OSE will review SCR’s event request.”

SCR also requested $6,000 through a Standard Grant application to the Undergraduate Senate on Nov. 4 for a “Winter Quarter ’22 Speaker,” according to the organization’s funding application. The Undergraduate Senate is now considering SCR’s application. 

The group proposed using the entirety of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) funds for audiovisual services. Though the identity of the speaker was not disclosed on SCR’s application, a University official told members of the Undergraduate Senate that the speaker is Pence, according to three individuals familiar with the matter.

A funding application that SCR submitted to the Undergraduate Senate. The application requests $6,000 for audiovisual services.
Stanford College Republican’s funding application to the Undergraduate Senate, which was obtained by The Daily. The group is requesting $6,000 to fund audiovisual services.

The Senate wrote in a statement to The Daily that it is still considering whether to fund the event. A closed session was held to discuss the funding application, according to two individuals familiar with the matter.

The ASSU Constitution states that its legislative bodies “shall retain ultimate authority over the disbursement” of funds. While the University can block ASSU funding if it finds it goes against Stanford’s educational mission, the University cannot allocate funding. 

“The Undergraduate Senate first wants to recognize that previous iterations of such an event by SCR have caused genuine distress and fear for the personal safety of members of the Stanford community,” the Senate wrote in an email sent by co-chair Alain Perez ’23. “However, all campus groups, within reason, including SCR, have a right to invite a speaker of their choice to an event and seek funding from the Undergraduate Senate.”

Though the ASSU has the ability to deny a student organization’s request for funding, the Senate said in its statement that doing so could limit the ASSU’s ability to make stipulations for students’ safety. “Community safety is our top concern,” the Senate wrote, citing rising COVID-19 cases and adding that it wants to ensure that if it funds the event, the event will only be open to Stanford students and affiliates.

“Denying their funding based solely on our disdain for the speaker would set a dangerous precedent that could hurt other communities on campus in the future, something we would like to avoid,” the Senate added.

For special events with security, Stanford policies require event organizers, including student groups registered with the Office of Student Engagement, to obtain at least 50% of funds from on-campus funding sources. Any off-campus fundraising activities by student organizations require approval from the Office of Development.

Event sponsors requiring security must confirm their ability to fund the event and provide 50% of costs in advance before extending an invitation to a speaker, according to the policy. 

According to a spokesperson for the University, SCR has “completed the approval process for off-campus fundraising” for the 2021-22 academic year. 

When the College Republicans invited D’Souza to speak on campus in 2019, the Undergraduate Senate twice rejected funding for the event, before ultimately providing funds after SCR filed a complaint with the ASSU Constitutional Council. D’Souza, a policy advisor to former president Ronald Reagan and a former Hoover Institution fellow, faced criticism for controversial statements and retweeting Twitter posts that included the hashtags #burnthejews and #bringbackslavery, for which he later apologized. 

SCR alleged that the Undergraduate Senate’s actions with regard to funding for the D’Souza event was unconstitutional in part because of a clause in the Constitution stating that the ASSU cannot enact legislation abridging freedom of speech. Since funding was ultimately provided, the Constitutional Council did not rule on the case. 

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Cameron Ehsan is a desk editor for the News section and the engagement editor. He is studying biology and American studies. Contact him at cehsan ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.