A student-led conservative activism group’s new charter on the campus of Santa Clara University has sent several left-leaning students and some professors into a massive fit of outrage.
The Santa Clara student senate had voted 16-10 earlier this year to reject the student group, Turning Points USA, because opponents complained that its presence would make them feel “unsafe” — and because of the “mood” at the Jesuit bastion in the thick of Silicon Valley since Donald Trump was elected president. (RELATED: Campus Conservative Group Rejected Because It Makes Liberal Students Feel ‘Unsafe’)
In an unusual move, Santa Clara vice provost Jeanne Rosenberger announced last week that she was using her power of administrative fiat to grant Turning Points USA status as a registered student organization.
At least two students have responded with very angry letters to The Santa Clara, the school newspaper.
Avery Unterreiner, a former Santa Clara student senator who is pursuing a master’s degree in teaching at the school, composed a 935-word screed assailing the decision to allow a conservative group on campus.
“I have sat by my computer for an hour now with my stomach turning and my feelings oscillating between disillusionment, disgust and anger,” Unterreiner wrote.
Turning Points USA is “associated with white supremacists, a professor watchlist that seeks to silence their right to opine in their own classrooms and conservative talking heads who hold blatantly misogynistic, Islamophobic and transphobic views,” Unterreiner also fulminated.
Professor Watchlist is a Turning Points USA-created website database that publishes the names and exploits of professors at schools across the country who — according to Turning Points USA — “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Critics of Professor Watchlist describe it as “essentially a new species of McCarthyism” that endangers academic freedom.
In any case, Unterreiner described herself as “infuriated” and mentioned that her “mental health was in utter disaster” during her senior year at Santa Clara.
She also wrote that she does “not know what it is like to be a racial minority” on Santa Clara’s gorgeous, $61,077-per-year campus, “but I have opened my ears to students of color over the past four years and what I have heard is heartbreaking.”
Unterreiner, who signed her diatribe “In persistence,” lists Feministing.com, Students for Justice in Palestine, Her Campus Santa Clara and, of course, Hillary Clinton among her Facebook likes.
A second student, Jay Bassett, submitted an 862-word tirade to The Santa Clara about his distaste for Turning Points USA.
Bassett, a senior majoring in both management and women’s and gender studies, described Turning Points USA as “a dangerous and McCarthyist national organization” that “has ties to Milo Yiannopoulos who has, in the past, singled out a transgender student for harassment,” Bassett wrote.
Some Turning Points USA chapters have extended speaking invitations to Yiannopoulos, an openly gay former Breitbart News editor who recently spoke positively about child sex abuse.
At a Jan. 26 meeting of the Santa Clara student senate, a university employee provided senators with a PowerPoint entitled “White Nationalist, Alt-Right & Other Groups on College Campuses.”
David Warne, a Santa Clara student senator, described the document to The Daily Caller.
“The order of the presentation goes like this: White Nationalists—>Alt-Right—>Identity Evropa—>Richard Spencer—>Milo Yiannopoulos—>Turning Point USA,” Warne wrote in an email.
Identity Evropa, a hardcore white supremacist organization with members who sport neo-Hitler haircuts, recently targeted the Santa Clara campus with racist posters. “No one thinks these posters were put up by students,” Warne noted.
Richard Spencer is a white nationalist with a meager following that is dwarfed by the annual gathering of dudes who like to dress up in “My Little Pony” outfits. (RELATED: White Nationalist Leader Richard Spencer Defends Conference Attendance Compared To BronyCon)
“I believe what happened is they were told Turning Points USA is a white supremacy organization,” Caleb Alleva, president of the Santa Clara Turning Points USA chapter, told TheDC.
Neither Identity Evropa, nor Spencer, nor Yiannopoulos are affiliated with Turning Points USA.
In any case, Bassett, who is the logistics chairman for Santa Clara Queer, wrote that he is gravely concerned about video recordings of the initial student senate hearing “broadcast in places like Fox News.”
He was referencing this video, originally published by TheDC:
Santa Clara’s administration “does NOT respect established student processes or the voices of marginalized students,” Bassett declared in his letter to the student newspaper.
Further, Bassett wrote, Turning Point USA “failed to clarify how it was separate from other clubs, why it needed to be there and how it fulfills the university’s mission and aligns with Jesuit values — other than simply being a cause with a desire to speak and have access to the university’s brand and resources, which, for the record is a status beyond their right to free speech.”
Among the impressively large number of student groups which already exist at Santa Clara are Her Campus Santa Clara, HeForShe at Santa Clara University, SCU Vagina Monologues and Together for Ladies of Color. There’s also the Santa Clara Harry Potter Club, the Super Smash Bros Club and the Hipnotik Hip-hop Dance Group.
Here is a March 8 entry for Bassett’s Facebook page:
In addition to students, a multitude of Santa Clara professors have also protested the administration’s decision to allow a Turning Points USA chapter on campus.
“As faculty members at the University, we were disappointed to learn that the Provost’s office intervened last week to overturn the Student Senate decision denying Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) application to become a registered student organization,” a group of 86 Santa Clara professors wrote in a letter to the school newspaper.
The 86 professors complained primarily about the Professor Watchlist.
“Such lists can lead to the harassment of faculty, and the American Association of University Professors has deemed them ‘a threat to academic freedom,'” the 86 professors said.
“We support students’ right to free speech, and we welcome diverse points of view on our campus,” the 86 professors also heartily assured.
Alleva, the Santa Clara Turning Points USA chapter president, told TheDC he has personally received “a total of four petty and immature emails from professors.”
The professors apparently sent the letters to a large group of faculty members in addition to Alleva.
Rohit Chopra, a Santa Clara communications professor, informed Alleva that he wants to be part of the Professor Watchlist in his “capacity as a faculty member of color” and “to show solidarity to others.”
John S. Farnsworth, an environmental studies professor, wrote that he also seeks inclusion on “the Faculty Watchlist.”
“During the spring quarter I will be teaching ENVS 79: Environmental Thought,” Farnsworth wrote. “In this course I attempt to establish a climate of intellectual openness that I fear will make TPUSA members uncomfortable. Additionally, the rigors of the course, which have long been subject to critique, will almost certainly present difficulties to any student who subscribes to the TPUSA viewpoint.”
Alleva responded to Farnsworth with a letter of his own.
“Dear John S. Farnsworth and whoever it may concern,” Alleva wrote, “I am not in charge of the watch list. ”
“If you would like to be reported on the watch list, I see no reason why you can’t do it yourself, cross your fingers, and hope for the best,” Alleva suggested.
“Based on your brief explanation, you seem like an ordinary environmental studies and science teacher at a fantastic liberal arts university (Go Broncos!).”
“I am unsure of why you would want to be listed on a site with the likes of professors who deny the Holocaust, called the election of Trump an act of terrorism, blamed the San Bernardino shooting on conservatives” and “are supporters of Hugo Chavez.”
“I have now received a total of four similar emails from professors,” Alleva continued. “These emails are not an attempt to bring about fruitful discussion, but rather an attempt to purposely call me out, intimidate me, and demonize me in front of the entire faculty.”
“This attempt at public humiliation and demonization will now affect me for the rest of my time at this university, as professors who I may take in the future will have seen these emails and formed unfair opinions of me based on them.”
Rosenberger, the provost who approved the Santa Clara Turning Points USA chapter, noted that “Santa Clara University does not endorse the Professor Watchlist, a project of the national TPUSA organization, nor does the University have any control over the existence of the Watchlist.”
Warne, one of the student senator who voted to approve Turning Points USA, described Rosenberger’s decision as “a refreshing affirmation that free discourse matters.”
“Vice provost for student life Jeanne Rosenberger certainly knew the kind of flak she would catch from this action, but she did the right thing, anyway,” he told TheDC.
The Santa Clara branch of Turning Points USA is the first one on a campus in Northern California.
Matt Lamb, a Turning Points USA national director, told The Mercury News that he expects to see “four, five, six more clubs up in the area pretty soon.”