Earlier this month, the Student Government Association at University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point banned conservative group Turning Point USA from becoming a recognized chapter at the university — a decision that was later overturned after administrative involvement.
UW-Stevens Point Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Al Thompson noted that Turning Point had fulfilled all requirements needed to become a recognized organization and was concerned about the legitimacy of the SGA decision.
Thompson found that according to UW-Stevens Point policies, Turning Point qualified for recognition.
“I knew I would probably have to review the decision and decide how we would proceed,” Thompson said.
During the Nov. 9 meeting, Turning Point USA representatives said the goals of their group were to “promote fiscal responsibility and limited government.”
SGA also heard from constituents advocating for and against the recognition of the group.
Certain constituents called Turning Point USA a “hate speech group” and worried the actions and words of the parent organization foster prejudice and close-mindedness. Several people cited their Facebook page use of memes as evidence of bias against minorities.
The SGA’s vote to deny recognition led to backlash from other conservative groups on campus.
The UW-Stevens Point College Republicans were disappointed in the vote. College Republicans Chairwoman Amelia Heup stated that all political groups deserve to have a voice on the UW-Stevens Point campus.
“By denying Turning Point USA the ability to form a chapter and be recognized as an official student organization on campus, the Student Government has fundamentally stripped the voice of conservative organizations and student members of UWSP along with infringing on the rights of students,” Heup said in a statement.
UW-Stevens Point sophomore Alex Gotto believes students who don’t support the group should still support the group’s right to exist on campus.
Shortly after the SGA decision was reversed, Tyson Langhofer, a member of the Senior Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom which defends student’s freedom of speech, contacted the UW-Stevens Point Chancellor, Bernie Patterson via email.
Langhofer stated the student government had originally “violated TPUSA’s constitutional rights by denying its application to be recognized based upon the viewpoint of its speech.”
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Despite the later achievement of recognition, ADF was still concerned the RSO policy allowing a group to be denied based on their speech was still in effect. According to the legal analysis portion of the email, these policies are unconstitutional and violate the First Amendment.
Gotto and another UW-Stevens Point sophomore Jeremy Roemer agreed the initial decision was unconstitutional.
“[The initial decision] was keeping the freedom of speech away from a certain group,” Roemer said.
Earlier this year, the UW Board of Regents approved a policy that would suspend or expel students who disrupt the free speech of another student or speaker on campus.
To create a productive learning environment, Roemer believes it’s important to allow all viewpoints to have a space on campus.
“I think allowing all viewpoints is a good idea,” Roemer said. “It helps get ideas out there and some of them could be great ideas, some of them you might not agree with, but somebody will and it’s good to be a part of a group.”