Protestors from College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty, and Turning Point stand on the side of Park Road on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The group, under the platform of "Socialism Sucks" was protesting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) visit to Hancher Auditorium. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Point/Counterpoint: Conservative student organization denied at Wartburg College

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Two columnists answer the question: Was this decision just or a case of liberal bias?

Last week, the Wartburg College Student Senate denied a request to establish Turning Point USA as a student organization. This decision came after the Student Relations Committee originally denied the group, claiming the national organization’s professor watch lists and social-media presence did not reflect the values of the Wartburg mission statement. UI’s Turning Point chapter has voiced their support for the denied students.

Student Senate silenced conservative voices

Wartburg College Student Senate took advantage of its power and denied a Turning Point USA chapter — an organization that promotes economic freedom and limited government.

They cited reasons such as the Professor Watchlist, which is no different from RateMyProfessor and allows students to see which professors to avoid in order to receive an education that is not based on their personal political beliefs. I have used this watchlist to research professors at the UI and was warned of a certain professor’s agenda to “deconstruct the whiteness” of her students. The watchlist serves as a useful tool to protect conservative students who are a target of the professors they supply a paycheck for. If Wartburg student government finds fault in wanting to know where tuition money is going, and not in professors showing bias in the classroom, they are responsible for encouraging division and silencing conservative students.

I happen to lead the UI Turning Point chapter and deal with the consequences of daring to think differently on a daily basis. My strong opposition to liberal indoctrination has created a shift in the culture at the UI. I have been given the opportunity to peacefully debate with students and open the minds of those who never questioned their professors before. Our chapter provides a healthy environment for students, who believe the government is too large, to organize and promote diverse thinking on campus. Turning Point gave me an outlet for my voice … an outlet that is now denied to the students of Wartburg.

Wartburg student government’s message to Turning Point was clear: Opposing opinions are not welcome. You are not welcome here.

Marina Jaimes

Turning Point denial not rejecting ‘diversity of thought’

I have no doubt whether conservative viewpoints are being wrongly silenced on college campuses, and I advocate for diversity of opinion with more tenacity than I do diversity of background. But I do not believe that the Senate’s decision was merely “yet another incident of apparent campus bias.” Rather, I caution against the right’s reflex to victimhood over critical examination of this organization’s actions that do anything but foster civil discourse.

One of the organization’s most controversial initiatives is its Professor Watchlist, an online aggregate of American professors who “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The premise of “exposing” educators for their leftist political views harkens back to a 1934 book called, The Red Network — a Who’s Who and Handbook for Radical Patriots, which included the American Federation of Teachers. Refusal to accept a group that targets professors in this way is more than reasonable.

Turning Point has also come under fire for funneling thousands of dollars into dozens of student government campaigns, taking on the role of a super PAC in college politics. As a nonprofit organization, Turning Point may have  violated federal rules prohibiting charity engagement in political activity. After failing to report funding from Turning Point, candidates at the University of Maryland withdrew from student elections.

None of this information should be weaponized against individual members of Turning. However, the national organization’s controversies cannot be entirely separated from singular chapters, and the Wartburg Student Senate’s decision to deny Turning Point based on the former is entirely fair. While nationwide student activist networks are great for connection and grass-roots organizing, they also present the qualm of being represented by actions that individual students may not endorse (Wartburg students said they would not initiate a professor watchlist on campus).

Conservative students on all college campuses should continue their efforts to organize. But they must accept the potential consequences of the platform they choose to speak from.

—Isabella Rosario

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