The UWSP Lesson on Campus Free Speech

Are conservative students’ voices at risk of being silenced at universities? In the aftermath of UW Stevens Point denying recognition to the conservative student group Turning Point USA, many are becoming increasingly concerned about conservative free speech on campuses. Chairwoman of UW-Stevens Point College Republicans Amelia Heup told Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader that the TPUSA experience is typical of what conservative voices face on campus.

UWSP denied the conservative Turning Point USA student group recognition as an official campus organization last thursday, on grounds it would make other student organization and their constituents feel “unsafe.” Senator Patrick Testin and UWSP’s College Republicans both sent out press releases which condemned the decision of the Student Government Association. Heup told Bader that efforts continue to get the Student Government Association decision reversed by college administration:

“The College Republicans are going to stand for free speech on campus no matter what kind of organization that it was, we also support the diversity of ideas on campus.”

“Anyone with a view point on campus has a right to speak, a student’s right does not end when they enter a public university’s door step, and the fact that this is going on is ultimately hurting the tuition paying students, it’s hurting the taxpayers that fund this university, because it’s supposed to be a free market place for ideas and hindering one organization creates a problem.”

Heup also told Media Trackers that the meeting to decide if TPUSA would be recognized wasn’t adequately publicized and seemed to unfairly favor the opposing groups:

“I hadn’t heard about it from my senator of the college of letters and sciences, you would think that is this was a big deal they would try and get their constituents to be voicing their opinions on this. ”

“It wasn’t very publicized on campus, I think that the student senators and student government overall didn’t really get the word out that this was going on, and so it was more of one side coming at the other. They did have more time to prepare, at the meeting that they had with student government, the open forum that they were talking about, the other student organizations had power points, presentations, stuff like that while they were speaking, which if they had a full day as Turning Point did to be prepared, how would they have all that information in a presentation everything else ready to go.”

 

As to the claims that having Turning Point recognized by the university would make students feel unsafe, Heup disagreed, saying that denying organizations recognition actually hurts overall academic diversity of a campus:

“I think that the free market place of ideas is ultimately going to be helping the diversity of campus, whether that’s ideas, whether that ethnicity, whether that’s creed, whether that’s anything.”

“By striping students’ fundamental rights, you’re stripping the diversity of voices on campus, and that’s something that I believe that all the students could be for and something and that all students should be backing up.”

Instead of other students feeling unsafe because of TPUSA, Heup offered an opposite viewpoint in where an increasing number of conservative students are feeling their voices are being stifled and have fear that their views will be looked down upon in the classroom:

“I was tabling with two other of my College Republicans, and we repeatedly have people that come up and they are too afraid to put their name on our email list, or they do a lap and make sure people aren’t standing around seeing what they are going to be doing, and that’s something that’s not okay, or something that should be condoned in anyway, that they feel that they are in danger because they are going to sign up for the College Republicans. I think that’s something that many people don’t realize, is that the conservative voice is stifled on many campuses across the UW system.”

 

Heup also told Bader that that the College Republicans organization is the only conservative group on campus without Turning Point being recognized, and that in a Facebook post UWSP College Democrats actually condoned the decision of the Student Government Association to deny to organization to be recognized, contrary to their beliefs of the inclusiveness of all voices.

 

While the decision is currently being reviewed by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Al Thompson, Heup spoke of the College Republicans continued effort in spreading their message, and of her support of legislators like Senator Patrick Testin who spoke out against UWSP’s decision:

“We’re going to keep getting this message out, in the media we’re going to keep going to our legislators, Senator Testin has been a great asset for us because he understands how the student government works, he was the former chair of the college republicans, he understands how that works so he’s been a great asset, but as College Republicans we are going to keep the message going. We’re not going to stop, we’re not going to cower in a corner in fear.  On Monday we were out tabling, we’re going to be tabling today, we’re going to keep getting our members involved in the community and the university, but we’re also going to make sure that our message of freedom of speech for all, no matter what they believe, we’re going to make sure that message keeps going.”

 

The full interview with Chairwomen of the UWSP College Republicans Amelia Heup can be found here: