Student Federation voted to disband a club for the first time in more than four years at its Oct. 5 meeting.
The federation members said they unanimously agreed to dissolve the American Individualists of Hillsdale because they felt the group violated the mission of Hillsdale College. As a result, the group is ineligible to post flyers on campus or receive funds from Student Fed.
“Its aims are expressly contrary to those of Hillsdale College,” said senior Thomas Ryskamp, head of the federation’s club oversight committee. “The college’s aim is to pursue truth, while this organization seeks to provoke discussion purely for discussion’s sake. They reject what every campus club shares: accountability to an end goal.”
Club leaders, however, said they plan to appeal for reinstatement.
“It’s supposed to provide a forum for people to discuss things: That’s the point of free speech,” American Individualists President junior Quinn Reichard said.
The American Individualists club was previously on probationary status as part of a new process for approving clubs. Although officially recognized as a campus club in February, it was not eligible to receive funding until fully approved. The federation could have approved the club fully on Thursday but instead voted to disband it.
“I saw it potentially as a vehicle to be taken over by people who could hurt the college in the future and as a group which could host absurd discussions under the guise of having no official platform, which would also have the potential to cause issues,” said sophomore Matthew Montgomery, a member of the club oversight committee.
Until last week, the club met weekly to discuss and debate current events and issues. Its leaders said the point of its meetings are to leave people with more questions than before, as they discuss political philosophy and investigate assumptions, including the existence of truth.
Reichard, who started American Individualists at his high school in Virginia and formed a second chapter at Hillsdale, said during the Student Fed meeting that the club lacks a platform like other political clubs on campus, and that he was not certain the group’s purpose was to seek truth.
Later, however, Reichard said in hindsight, he would have defended his club before the federation differently.
“I probably shouldn’t have said what I said in front of the Student Federation,” Reichard told The Collegian. “What we do in our meetings would we be described by anyone who believes in truth as pursuing truth.”
In fact, the group’s bylaws said its purpose is to do just that.
“American Individualists of Hillsdale exists to seek truth, ask why, and act on what is right,” the bylaws read. “In an effort to advance the cause of liberty, we provide students a venue to discuss political ideas in addition to coordinating activism opportunities for our membership.”
Reichard said he will be better able to explain what American Individualists do in its meetings in the future.
“I think the best way to accomplish our mission is to have as many diverse opinions as possible,” he said. “And I have found that questioning the existence of truth itself brings in the sort of people that provide exactly that sort of intellectual diversity.”
Ryskamp said the club has the opportunity to reevaluate, clarify its purpose, and return to the federation for approval.
“If and when American Individualists changes the purpose of their organization to comport with the college’s aims,” Ryskamp said, “they can return to Student Federation through the new club process.”