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Wabash and the Republican Senate Primary

COREY LEUTERS ‘19 | STAFF WRITER • As the school year draws near an end, the heat is picking up for Congressional candidates of Indiana. 11 days from now, on May 8, the Indiana Republican party will hold their primaries to decide which candidates will represent the party in the general elections this November, battling for the seat of Incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly. The three candidates up for the Republican

nomination are Wabash graduates Luke Messer ’91, Todd Rokita ’92, and Mike Braun ’76. Political organizations on campus and other adjunct bodies are currently facing the same question: What can [we] do with political candidates on campus and remain in the scope of the College’s 501(c)(3) status?

It is not as complicated as it may seem. To clarify, a 501(c)(3) status is a not-for-profit, tax-exempt entity; Wabash College holds this as a private body. As a College, we must adhere to these policies to maintain our status. In an email sent out to various figureheads on campus, Dean of Students Mike Raters ’85 outlined guidelines all entities of the College must adhere to.

“The College must provide an equal opportunity to participate to all qualified candidates seeking the same office. In other words, if Candidate A is invited or allowed to speak, or is campaigned for on our email server, then the same MUST BE afforded Candidates B, C, D, etc,” Raters said in his email. “And not just the ‘chance’ to do that – the actual time and equality of ‘action’ must be equal.”

With the passing of Indiana College Democrats Convention, hosted at Wabash on April 8,
and the appearance of Senator Donnelly, some questions had arisen regarding the legality of his appearance.

“[Donnelly] did not come to campaign, nor did he mention his campaign,” Christopher Roman ’18, the organizer of the College Democrats convention and former secretary of the Wabash Democrats, said. “He provided an educational update on the political climate in Washington D.C. and emphasized the importance of college students’ involvement in our democracy.”

Roman further stressed, “…the need to keep an open mind when political candidates are on campus as pivotal in avoiding calamities among our community. We should be cautious when candidates are on campus, but because you do not agree with the politics of said candidate, does not mean you should claim an infringement on behalf of the organization hosting the candidate.”

Despite the inclination of the organization hosting the candidate, the College heeds to importance of the rhetoric used when talking about candidates; always, the host should remain neutral in dialogical structures. Per our guidelines, “The College must not indicate any support for, nor opposition to, any candidate. Introductions and event communications should clearly state that the College does not endorse or support the candidate. Exclusively positive or excessively supportive introductions can easily be misinterpreted as political campaign activity.”


When it comes to support, as noted above, the College must not take an official stance in favor or opposition for a candidate. This support pervades more than the words of organizations and a person’s words; there cannot be any fundraising for a candidate
of any kind; the nature of events held for candidates should be similar in nature. For example, if an organization hosts candidate A to speak in front of a crowd held
in Baxter 101, then the same/ similar platform must be offered to candidate B, C, D, etc. If a larger venue is offered for candidate A, it can be skewed in its interpretation as supporting the candidate. Tangentially, at such events, candidate appearances cannot
not be treated nor advertised as campaign rallies or events, nor can they “morph” into that – campus hosts must ensure that does not occur ahead of, during, and/nor after an event.

So, these regulations are rigid, perplexing, and, at times, intimidating. The College is, accordingly, concerned about and desires to protect our tax-exempt status, particularly in our relatively “free society” of full email access, Student Senate funding, among other mediums provided by the College. If you are a student leader on campus and have concerns or questions about these guidelines, primary points of contact will be Dean Raters and Jim Amidon ‘87 for future discussion.