College Republicans United, a conservative political activism club described as a "far-right extremist group" by other republican groups on campus, was condemned by students and several organizations across the political aisle for an event featuring noted white nationalist Jared Taylor on Sept. 2.
It's not the first time CRU has invited a controversial figure to campus or been condemned for its actions. And it's not the first time the University has allowed the actions of the club to continue in the name of free speech, something students and clubs have regularly criticized ASU for.
In 2020, CRU said it would donate half of the funds collected over the fall semester to support the legal defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people and injured another in Kenosha, Wisconsin during a protest. ASU College Republicans condemned the move at the time with a statement, saying there was "no place for this sort of behavior on our campus."
In that same year, CRU invited former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to speak on campus. The event was met with similar backlash from students and became the scene of a protest outside Coor Hall.
College Republicans President Isaac Humrich said CRU wants to provoke a reaction from the rest of the student body when it invites guests like Taylor to speak on campus.
"They're provocateurs. They aren't real serious people," said Humrich, a sophomore studying political science.
Humrich said College Republicans separates itself from CRU because it is a splinter group and "not real Republicans."
CRU declined to comment.
Other organizations that classify themselves as politically opposite or apolitical raised concerns and demanded ASU cancel the event. Twenty-eight student organizations, ranging from political advocacy groups to Greek life organizations, signed a letter demanding the University step in.
ASU and University President Michael Crow released statements regarding the Taylor event and said while they do not endorse or condone the message, the event and club had a First Amendment right to invite Taylor to campus to speak.
"The presence of a speaker invited by a student organization to speak on one of our campuses does not in any way imply university endorsement of that speaker or his or her views," Crow said in the statement. "As I'm sure you are aware, because ASU is a public university, its operation and administration is subject to the protections and requirements of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Edward Osei, a freshman studying engineering management, was outside of the event and said CRU is constantly pushing its limits.
"They're definitely using the whole ASU 'we include everyone and we don't exclude anyone' thing to their advantage to try and just cause an eruption," Osei said.
CRU has taken advantage of ASU's stance on campus speakers before.
"If you have an organization that's thinking about trolling people, then it's because they're assuming that the other side is thinking that it is really going to be a triggering event that's going to make the news and bad stuff is going to happen," said assistant professor of political science James Strickland.
Strickland said while he does not support the organization or the planning of the event, CRU could be using these events as a strategy to expand their reach and get more donations from outside influences.
Max Flammer, a junior studying business law, didn't attend the protest outside of the Taylor event so as not to give the group more attention, but said he was frustrated with how University administration handled the event and past ones.
"I think the University should not associate itself with (it) because even if they don't promote it, by just having them on campus, it sends the message that they're apathetic about the issue and that they're fine, not taking any measures," Flammer said.
Osei said ASU is complicit with the event being held because other problematic guest speakers have been invited to speak on campus before and ASU did not cancel or hinder the events.
"(ASU's statement is that) we don't exclude anyone, and to be all inclusive means to include literally everybody, even if they're going to harm the students within the school, such as myself and other minorities. It just makes no sense," Osei said.
Flammer cited a statement released by Crow in 2020 that he believed the University contradicted by allowing CRU to hold the event. The statement read, "To be clear, ASU condemns behaviors and actions that threaten or intimidate any individual or group of individuals on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, veteran status, or any other particular status."
Politics editor Reagan Priest contributed to the reporting of this article.
Edited by Reagan Priest, Grace Copperthite, Piper Hansen, Wyatt Myskow and Sophia Balasubramanian.
Shane Brennan is a politics reporter at State Press. He also works for Cronkite News and Blaze Radio.