A chapter of the national organization, Turning Point USA (TPUSA) has come to San Luis Obispo and aims to promote free markets, fiscal responsibility and limited government. This chapter is made up of Cal Poly and Cuesta students, and while TPUSA has no political party affiliation, the group leans toward libertarian views, according to TPUSA President Isaac Schick.
“One of our biggest principles is we want free discussion,” political science sophomore Schick said. “We think that as soon as you prevent free discussion from happening that’s, I’d say, the biggest way of creating these isolated little bubbles that everybody lives in where we just assume the other side is evil and we hate them and we never want to talk with them.”
The new club will be co-sponsoring the April 26 Fake News Panel with the Cal Poly College Republicans, which will host controversial alt-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos will be joined by Youtubers Sargon of Akkad and Austen “Fleccas” Fletcher.
Though Yiannopoulos has been widely denounced by the Cal Poly community, Schick said Yiannopoulos’ identity is an integral part of the backlash.
“Being a gay, ethnically Jewish man married to a black man kinda makes it hard to discount him based on his identity,” Schick wrote in an email to Mustang News. “I also think it’s fine to disagree with him and critique him, but when the backlash involves trying to hurt him or his supporters then the backlash loses all credibility.”
According to Schick, the College Republicans reached out to TPUSA when they heard TPUSA was bringing Sargon of Akkad to campus, so they decided to combine the events.
“The CP Republicans have been one of the only clubs to want to assist us in our nonpartisan events so far such as the ‘change my mind’ event and the ‘stack the legal odds in your favor’ event,” Schick said. “So we’ve developed a good relationship with them and believe that we share a lot of the same values such as freedom of speech and free markets.”
Many TPUSA chapters on other college campuses have raised controversy. The chapter at Kent State University gained national attention for dressing up like babies to protest safe spaces.
The organization is also notorious for its Professor Watchlist, an online project with the mission “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Schick said the Cal Poly chapter of TPUSA is more focused on facilitating discussion about important political issues.
To promote this free discussion, TPUSA held set up booths with controversial topics like abortion and gun control and “change my mind” written underneath. Schick said the event was very successful because one of the topics was gun control and the booth was set up while there were rumors of a gun threat to campus.
The Cal Poly and Cuesta chapter of TPUSA took a while to become officially established because a faculty advisor for the club was hard to find.
“Even though we’re not aligned with a particular political party, there were a lot of professors that were actually afraid to be our advisor because they were afraid of political discrimination in Cal Poly’s Bureaucracy,” English sophomore Jackson Ratkovich said.
TPUSA finally found Brian Kennelly, faculty advisor for the College Republicans.
“He’s a free speech absolutist, which I really respect,” Ratkovich said.
While the club is still growing, members have expressed that the club is getting a lot of interest at both Cal Poly and Cuesta, and they plan to work on expanding next quarter.
“I think it’s really important for students to be exposed to certain ideas that they might not be exposed to otherwise in the classroom or by their peers,” Cuesta student Celine Ryan said.
Ryan said TPUSA provides the opportunity for college students in San Luis Obispo to have an open dialogue.
Cal Poly Democrats President Erin Chazer said she is open to having dialogues with the new club.
“Having earnest discussions with people you disagree with is one of the best things you can do,” political science and English senior Chazer said.
However, Chazer said she still has concerns about the reputation of the national organization the chapter represents.
“Turning Point USA has an interesting history to say the least and has a history of promoting racism,” Chazer said. “I hope this chapter can be better than the others.”
Chazer is open to dialogues with Turning Point USA, but does not agree with the choice to bring Yiannopoulos to campus.
“Milo Yiannopoulos has never been shy about his intent when he speaks or writes publicly; it is not to inform or persuade, but to insult and perform,” Chazer said in a message to Mustang News. “While I still believe that speaking with people you disagree with can be important, the people that want Milo Yiannopoulos to represent their club are unlikely to engage in any earnest political dialogues. We are ashamed that the biggest way that our campus is making news recently is for students engaging in black face and for student organizations bringing in hateful speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos. It is clear that our campus needs to make a big change.”
Schick said typical meetings include a discussions about current issues and upcoming events for the club.
“It’s a very broad kind of discussion,” Schick said. “If you generally believe that you want to be able to do what you want with your character, with your money and with your voice, then this should be the club for you.”
Meetings are open to everyone and are held in Graphics Arts (building 26, room 106) every other Wednesday from 8 to 9 p.m.
Update: This story has been updated with a response from Cal Poly Democrats president Erin Chazer. At the time of her initial interview, it was not confirmed that Turning Point USA was co-hosting Yiannopoulos.