Controversy over UW-Stevens Point denial of student organization

Published: Nov. 13, 2017 at 6:30 PM CST
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Turning Point USA, a conservative and nonpartisan group, was denied official UW-Stevens Point campus recognition Thursday after members of the Student Government Alliance voted against it.

"The actions taken by the Student Government Association was taking away the free speech of a certain group on campus, which was more of the conservative message. They were taking away that message on campus by denying Turning Point the ability to be on campus," said Amelia Huep, Chair of the College Republicans Group at UWSP.

College Republicans, an officially recognized group, said this denial takes away students' First Amendment rights, regardless of their political affiliation.

"As College Republicans, we are taking the stance that all speech on campus is going to be beneficial to the free marketplace of ideas. And it is also beneficial to the diversity of ideas on campus," said Huep.

Turning Point USA is conservatively based, and nationally there are some concerns over its founder's ties to alt-right groups. But Huep said all speech should be welcome at UWSP.

"Free speech is still free speech. No matter if it's an extreme left or an extreme right group, we still believe that it should be taken into account on a college campus," she said.

The Student Government Alliance said the vote to deny the recognition comes from student senators who represent the student population, and its beliefs.

"We have senators that are elected by each college, and the senators represent their constituents the students that are part of the colleges they represent," said Tegan Griffith, the Communications and PR Director with UWSP's SGA.

She said the alliance held an open forum, debating the acceptance of Turning Point for two hours.

"It was discussed at length, and both the student organization and the student population were given ample time to discuss their thoughts and feelings," said Griffith.

Despite the decision by the student government, it is now under review by UWSP Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Al Thompson. He has the ability to reverse the decision, and officially recognize Turning Point on campus.

"There is a review process, that is going to be utilized, and we praise the Vice Chancellor for student affairs and the university for taking that step to allow the review process to happen," said Griffith.

There's no timeline on when the Vice Chancellor will make his decision, but he will be reviewing the minutes from the senate floor meeting where Turning Point was voted down.