Stony Brook University (SBU) has permitted Turning Point USA (TPUSA) to become an official chapter on campus after a period of turmoil and intense resistance. And I agree with Stony Brook’s actions.
Turning Point USA is a conservative organization founded in 2012 by political activist and media personality Charlie Kirk. Its mission statement is “to educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and limited government.” TPUSA focuses on youth activism on high school and college campuses throughout the country. Despite its apparent growth and success, the organization has developed a controversial reputation over the past couple of years, such as promoting radical right-wing beliefs and funneling money to student governments in order to elect right-wing candidates.
While exiting class last semester, a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of Stony Brook University (YDSSBU) approached me. The student handed me a flyer and asked if I was familiar with Turning Point USA. I didn’t know much, I told him, aside from hearing their title in passing. TPUSA is a bigoted group, he explained and encouraged me to join their petition to prevent them from becoming an official organization on campus.
The flyer I received contained a list of grievances ranging from petty to legitimate. The more interesting arguments included instances like TPUSA’s former National Field Director stating she hated Black people, the organization’s promoting election misinformation and having connections to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Based on what I’ve learned about TPUSA, these reasons included, I feel little sympathy for them. From sensationalizing the 2020 election to promoting anti-vax ideologies, TPUSA has become an organization that I can’t support. Still, I agree with Stony Brook’s decision. Except for a few past controversies, TPUSA isn’t all that outrageous. As a whole, they’re your run-of-the-mill conservative group. They are pro-capitalism, pro-guns and anti-big government, among others. They’re just as worthy of being a campus chapter as the YDSSBU or any other organization.
TPUSA was conducting a poll in front of the Student Activity Center (SAC) at Stony Brook University asking people if they believed we should permit male to female transgender individuals to take part in women’s sports. I spoke to several TPUSA followers and hung around for about an hour to watch the debates take place. Not once did I hear a remark making up transphobia or see any instance of antagonism.
I saw multiple people screaming at and insulting the TPUSA students. I also witnessed an individual hurl a can of iced tea into the crowd, striking a passerby and soaking the poll conductors.
The conduct of the TPUSA followers impressed me, given the cruelty and violence they faced. There were very few moments of peace for them. Even when the police showed up at the scene, a student ran past the crowd, grabbed the whiteboard, erased the poll with his sleeve and held his middle finger up to a TPUSA follower who told him to stop.
I confronted this person, who moments before had stopped by and asked me what was going on. He informed me he was transgender and insisted his actions were justified because the organization was bigots.
Who are the true bigots in this scenario? The TPUSA group? Or those who flagrantly attacked them?
The YDSSBU flyer exposed the flaw of their own argument with one brief statement:
“Bigoted, dark money organizations should not be tolerated on a campus as diverse as SBU’s.”
To this, I have one question: How can one argue in favor of diversity while declaring what “should not be tolerated?”
If SBU were truly diverse, there wouldn’t be this level of backlash against a political minority. There wouldn’t be hordes of hecklers shrieking obscenities at 10 kids doing a poll. There wouldn’t be someone with enough nerve to seize their property in the presence of campus police.
Overall, if we are going to be selective about what groups are allowed at SBU, we should hold everyone to the same standards. If diversity is a value we intend to uphold, dissenting views should not be met with such hostility.