Conservative College Group Denied Status at Public University

Turning Point USA was denied recognition as an official campus organization by the UW-Stevens Point student senate Thursday night.

Cross posted from www.MediaTrackers.org

By Sam Morateck and Jerry Bader

After four hours of criticism, including being called racists and a threat to safety, a conservative group was denied recognition as an official campus organization by the UW-Stevens Point student senate Thursday night. Representatives of various student organizations took to the podium to attack Turning Point USA (TPUSA). The groups argued that TPUSA isn’t non-partisan as it claims, would bring radical speakers to campus and is affiliated with the alt-right. TPUSA Midwest Field Director Timon Prax forcefully rejected those characterizations in an interview Monday with Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader. Prax says TPUSA’s mission is to educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and capitalism through innovative campus activism and non-partisan, thought provoking discussion. The organization’s goal, Prax says, is to promote, free speech, capitalism and limited government:

“All we were requesting was to be recognized as an official organization on campus so that we would have access to student government funding, we would have access to reserving different rooms for meetings and different events. At the end of the day I will stand behind the statement that if Turning Point USA is recognized on campus, which we will not give this fight up anytime soon and if UW Stevens Point administrators think otherwise they are sadly mistaken, we will increase the amount of discourse on campus and we will ultimately benefit many students by being able to hear opposing viewpoints. At the end of the day people may cry and shout racist when they hear a conservative, or when they hear a libertarian, or when they hear an opposing viewpoint on campus, and that may work for them for the four years they are at college or the eight years they go for grad school, but I promise you if you try to do that once you enter the real world and when you have a job, you’re going to get one thing in return and that’s a pink slip.”

Prax says the nature of Thursday’s meeting was unprecedented in his experience:

“The people who came to that four hour session, completely unheard of in my time, my year and a half working with Turning point, only to grill and degrade Emily (local organizer Emily Strangfeld) for her viewpoint along with the other chapter members who were brave enough to show up, my major concern is this, how intolerant will these people be. Are we going to be putting ourselves in a situation where someone like Emily may be endangered on campus? Are we going to be in a situation where her grades may suffer as a result? I’ve had over ten students from Stevens Point reach out to me since this happened Thursday night over the weekend, and they have told me we (the students) are deathly afraid of being open conservatives on campus, we have to hide our beliefs all the time. Our professors will fail us, we will be ostracized by the community. I think we saw absolute evidence of that Thursday.”

Prax also rejected claims that the The national TPUSA organization is affiliated with the alt-right:

“I think that’s a hilarious accusation. I’ll take the time to personally denounce the alt-right. We don’t subject ourselves to identity politics as conservatives, I think identity politics is actually the degrading of civil discourse. The absolute advancement of identity politics, if you have a conservative view point your parents must be rich, they must be middle class, you must be white, that is the complete degradation of the American political system.”

The student representatives of the conservative group at the meeting spoke against claims that this group might create an unsafe feeling on campus for certain individuals, and that they just want to create a place where they can express their views and foster open debate about these subjects:

“We do not want anyone to feel targeted, we’re not going to go out and hurt people. We want to talk about these ideas because it’s in our best interest of freedom that we promote capitalism, because we don’t feel that socialism is a good form of government that will give us freedom.”
“What we would like to do is open up a conversation to talk to people about the differences of capitalism and socialism, we want to be able to educate students about it and not just sit there and say oh this is amazing, this is how it has to be. We want to be able to open up the conversation with students and be able to talk about it civilly, we don’t want to have any violence, we don’t want to have any name calling, any personal harassment, we just want to be able to talk to other people about it.”

If approved, the UW-Stevens Point TPUSA organization would be independent in its decision-making in accordance with the national TPUSA organization. One of those speaking in opposition was Co-chair of the Alliance for Multicultural and Diverse Organizations on Campus, saying TPUSA’s presence would be a reason for students of color to be fearful on campus:

“Although in our time free speech is something important and something that we cherish, our safety as students and connectedness and feeling of inclusivity on campus is really what we came here to college for. Allowing this organization to be recognized by student government with their constitution the way that it is just shows a statement to students of color that this campus is a place that we also can still remain fearful of.”

Prax rejected that notion:

“I think that’s a very unique claim, we have over 350 recognized campuses across the nation, one in each of the 50 states. I would encourage them to see the campuses we are official on and see that often times we are encouraging open debate, we’re having debates with opposing groups, we’ve debated democratic socialist clubs on campus, we’ve done different initiatives to encourage free speech and dialogue. I’ll put it out there if anybody disagrees with my conservative viewpoint, more power to you, I would love to meet anyone who disagrees with me for coffee, and we can talk about not just the issues, we can talk about the world and how we view different things. I think that’s the most powerful thing Turning Point stands for is we want to be open, we want to increase the amount of civil dialogue that is going on in our country, but clearly that hasn’t been understood well by Stevens Point. Honestly I don’t think they cared at all to understand anything that we stand for.”

At least one speaker challenged TPUSA’s claim that it is nonpartisan, because of its obvious conservative leanings. Prax contends the group can be both non-partisan and conservative:

“Absolutely, because at no point does anyone in our organization on company time go out and explicitly say I support x,y,z candidate. That’s part of the wonderful things about the 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is that we are able to maintain our nonpartisan status, and our tax exempt status while being conservative. There’s nothing inherently partisan about being conservative. My question really to UW-Stevens Point is, can higher education like UW-Stevens Point be tolerant of opposing viewpoints without trying to silence them. My other question is can taxpayers, and parents of student, and can donors live with the fact that UW-Stevens Point is attempting, and there are obvious attempts, to suppress conservatives on campus, can they live with that.”

Prax says no liberal group has been subjected to the type of treatment TPUSA’s local organizers faced:

“No absolutely not, they are actually paraded in the name of diversity, and in the name of inclusiveness to be represented communities on top of that they are actually given their own weeks on campus where they have unlimited tabling time where they can parade their posters around as much as they want in the name of diversity. University of Wisconsin Stevens point actually has a diversity and inclusiveness statement on their website. They actually broke their own statement by having a very obvious attempt to silence conservatives on campus, we’re as part of this diverse student group as any other member, and just the fact that we’re conservatives does not mean we are not human inherently anymore, despite as much as higher academia would want to say so. “

Prax says he has reached out since to the dean of students among other faculty members and has yet to hear back. As for a possible appeal of the student senate decision:

“We’re looking into that right now, again this whole process has been completely mind-blowing to me. It’s embarrassing, I would be embarrassed to be a member of the Stevens Point community right now because of what is going on. Honest to God, Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers, they are rolling in their grave on this attack on the first amendment.”

In the meantime, Prax says the students involved with TPUSA will continue to make their presence known on campus:

“We absolutely will; it’s a public university, we know our rights. We will continue to have different recruiting initiatives and ways on spreading our views on limited government, lower taxes, and free market, even if the higher administration doesn’t agree with our views, and frankly is attempting to ostracize conservatives on campus. We’re still going to be active.”

They are afraid. The more they can shut down opposing views or independent thinking, they actually are frightened even more by any they continue to see/hear...and they respond with anger, even bordering [or all the way] on violence. It's how ignorant humans always seem to behave and pretty much always have...fear the unknown...attack and kill it.

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