Student Government recently received a letter from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Student Body President, Vice President, and Cheif of Staff. I am sharing it with the Student Body of Texas State because I would like to re-emphasize that the legislation Senator Newman and I wrote is not at all about free speech, or taking the rights of students to speak or assemble. The legislation that we wrote and endured harassment for, that was passed in the Senate only to be vetoed by SBP Allison Castillo, is about the safety of our students, staff, and faculty. The framing of this legislation as “an attack on free speech” is a tool used by far-right conservative voices to distract from the real reason students, staff, and faculty across the country want Turning Point USA banned from their campus: TPUSA’s commitment to harassing students & faculty, their consistent corruption of student government electoral politics, and their connections to violent white supremacists.
There are several national and local news articles detailing TPUSA’s corruption on our campus but if you’re unfamiliar, I recommend reading Michael Vasquez’s “5 Takeaways from Turning Point’s Plan to ‘Commandeer’ Campus Elections” in the Chronicle of Higher Education as a starting place for learning about this well documented national issue. The San Marcos Daily Record and The Chronicle of Higher Education have both recently published articles detailing some of the harassment our students and faculty to endure at TPUSA’s hand.
I’d like to focus on the issue of TPUSA’s connection to violent white supremacists because I feel that hasn’t been fairly acknowledged by the Star, Eric Algoe, Govorner Abbott or Dr. Trauth. On Wednesday, April 10th, dangerous white supremacists were sighted in San Marcos and on our campus—namely Chris Ritchie, a well-known violent and unstable member of the far right, and members of the “Proud Boys,” another well-documented violent group. The Proud Boys were also seen during the Student Government meeting where we voted on the Faculty and Student Safety Resolution of 2019. I can’t emphasize enough how scary that was for many students, especially those of us that spoke up against TPUSA. Their presence on our campus is directly tied to Turning Point USA’s social media. I should not have to explain why it is dangerous for violent white supremacists on our campus. Violent people who want to do genocide are very simply bad. Keeping Turning Point around when they refuse to distance themselves from violent racists is a very stupid and unsafe thing for Texas State to do.
I am unspeakably disappointed by SBP Castillo’s decision to veto the Faculty and Student Safety Resolution because it demonstrates that she, similarly to Dr. Trauth, have chosen to fall into the free-speech distraction. It demonstrates that she, similarly to President Trauth and her cabinet, care more about financial donors being startled by reactionary “save free speech” rhetoric than about the actual safety of our student body. I am sharing this letter with you in hopes that even when the Texas State administration chooses to act foolishly, the rest of us will see and be committed to the truth.
Below is the letter we received from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Claudia Gasponi is a general studies senior and Senator for University College
To the Student Government of Texas State,
We, the undersigned members of the Illinois Student Government at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offer our thanks and support for your recently passed Faculty and Student Safety Resolution “calling for the immediate removal and barring of Turning Point USA from Texas State University and suggesting protecting minority and marginalized populations from their negative campus influence.”
Turning Point USA has a long history of harassment on campuses around the country. Specifically at the University of Illinois, they have publicly distributed the personal information of undocumented students, repeatedly harassed both fellow students as well as professors, built a wall on our main quad as part of a racist statement against Hispanic and Latinx individuals, and most recently held a “Hate speech is Free speech” event the same day as the Christchurch Mosque shooting.
Turning Point USA’s coordinated attempts to influence campus elections through outside funding represents an existential threat to the fundamental tenets of student government. We applaud your organization for recognizing the threat that Turning Point USA’s national actions pose to the very idea of students having a say in how their schools are governed, and we hope that student governments around the nation take action to keep their elections free, fair, and undisturbed by outside actors.
Like your organization, we are gravely concerned about Turning Point USA’s Professor Watchlist. We believe that free speech is an important and inalienable right, afforded to all those who call the United States of America home. Turning Point USA’s Professor Watchlist, a directory of professors deemed to be insufficiently right-wing is a chilling example of Turning Point USA’s opposition to the most fundamentally American value of free speech. We believe that students and professors alike, especially those from minority and marginalized populations, are entitled to their opinions, and we must all stand against McCarthy-esque attempts to harass those who dare to have their voices heard.
We would like to extend our thanks for your actions in leading the effort in protecting our fellow students.
Walter Lindwall, Student Body President; Vikram Sardana, Student Body Vice President; Susan Zhou, Chief of Staff