If you haven’t yet heard, Taylor University has a new unofficial club on campus — Turning Point USA — and, currently, it’s the best outlet for open discussion, regarding politics, that this university has to offer.
The club was started by sophomores Peter Crowe and Kade Werner at the beginning of this semester. Meetings occur every other Thursday at 7:30 p.m..
The hope behind bringing Turning Point to Taylor’s campus was to strengthen the conservative voice in the university’s community, while also fostering discussion through an open discussion forum.
“The motivation to have Turning Point on campus was because I reached out to them about a potential internship,” Crowe said. “They asked that I start a chapter on campus, and I was excited for the idea of opening an area for people to share their opinions, especially opinions that can be a minority on a college campus.”
While Taylor may be a more “right-leaning” campus than, say, a public institution, there have still been a fair share of controversies on campus in recent years, and that’s reason enough to start an open forum of dialogue, Crowe added.
In a nutshell, Turning Point USA is a conservative activism organization. Started by Charlie Kirk, conservative radio talk show host and activist, the organization aims to reach the minds of young students through campus “chapters” in both high school and college environments.
“The organization’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government,” Turning Point wrote on their website. “Turning Point USA believes that every young person can be enlightened to true free market values.”
At the core of their mission, Turning Point is looking to preserve the values of American freedom that make our nation so great — and the organization appeals primarily to young academics, the future of America.
Crowe expressed similar sentiment in the motivation behind starting a local chapter on campus.
“The driving point behind TPUSA is activism, and being able to discuss political topics, but also being prepared to take opinions out into the world,” Crowe said. “At the end of the day, it's about protecting the rights and freedoms that we are given, and standing up for values that have made America great, and have made America the greatest country in the world. So it's almost bigger than Taylor. It's a preparation for life, in showing how blessed we are in standing up for those values in life.”
Crowe and Werner reach the campus community through Instagram, primarily, using the account @tpusa.tayloru.
The account has a simple bio, to reflect the simple — yet valuable — beliefs held by the club.
“Freedom, Free Market, Limited Government,” reads the bio.
That’s it. Short, sweet, and to the point.
The two proctors utilize large lecture classrooms for their meetings, so as to accommodate all potential participants. The Feb. 25 meeting had 50+ people in attendance.
However, the meetings aren't recognized by Taylor as an official club, despite the large amount of attendance garnered at each meeting. Crowe and Werner have been proactive in solidifying a permanent club status, but to no avail.
“Students registered Taylor University as an official chapter through the (Turning Point) organization, prior to their first meeting,” the Echo reported recently. “Since then, the official status of the club has changed. The reason for this shift is not clear; the club is now operating in an unofficial capacity. The club is still in action though, both online and in person.”
According to Crowe, the on-campus Turning Point chapter was never approved by the university for an official club status in the first place — the status is still pending.
Crowe and Werner both expressed that they have been jumping through the hoops to solidify this status, but the process has taken more time than they expected.
“I initially reached out to Steve Austin through email back in January,” Crowe said.
Since that time, Crowe has emailed back and forth with Steve Austin, associate dean of student leadership and director of student programs, as well as meeting with administrators, such as Skip Trudeau, vice president for student development, and Mike Hammond, provost and executive vice president, in face-to-face meetings.
Crowe and Werner have wanted to start this club for nearly two months now, and it seems as though no progress has been made on the university’s end.
It could be that maybe there was a simple miscommunication in the process — or, perhaps Taylor as an institution is cautious of opening another door of potential controversy on campus.
According to Austin, there are a series of check marks that need to be met by club organizers in order to be approved for club status.
The process is as follows, according to Austin:
Club organizers present their idea to Austin, who is the direct overseer of campus clubs.
The club then presents to the campus student senate where they are either approved or denied.
The club then presents again to a committee of community members, composed of students, faculty and staff.
If all of these marks are hit, then an organization can start functioning as an official campus club. Turning Point is in the midst of this process presently.
Some of the main questions that arise for Taylor while reviewing Turning Point, Austin added, include whether or not the club can be entrusted with the responsibility of representing Taylor’s mission and beliefs well, and whether an affiliation with a political club would affect the perception of Taylor as a non-profit institution.
“We had a young republicans group that wanted to form a club awhile back,” said Austin. “I talked with my direct supervisor, and eventually it was decided that the club wouldn’t be a good fit for campus.”
Austin added that, after talking with Trudeau, the young republicans group was reviewed by the Taylor legal team, which weighed in heavily on the decision.
All that to say, Crowe and Werner have stuck to their guns and are meeting on campus regardless.
In one of the recent club meetings, the discussion revolved primarily around the values of socialism versus capitalism.
Turning Point, as a national corporation, seems to have strong opinions on the ideals of socialism. A scrolling banner at the top of their website displays the simple message, “SOCIALISM SUCKS,” amongst other buzzwords and catchy phrases.
While Turning Point, both nationally and on Taylor’s campus, leans heavily on traditional pillars of conservative ideals, ultimately, the club’s goal is to open dialogue and social discourse, not to shut down opposing views and opinions held by more liberal-minded individuals.
“The aim is partially educational, and partly discussion based,” Crowe said. “We want there to be an education side where people can learn about topics they're not familiar with, and people can learn facts and numbers, and find reasons behind opinions as opposed to just having an opinion.”
People with all different opinions should be able to discuss those opinions, Crowe added. Attendees learn more about what people believe and why they believe it, or so is the goal of the meetings.
And while these meetings are meant to be educational and discussion based, there’s still plenty of room for disagreement as well.
“No matter what the topic is, no matter who's talking, someone is going to disagree,” Werner said. “We try to stop the conversation in its tracks before it really gets out of hand. But so far, we haven't had any personal attacks in discussions.”
So, while the club may indeed claim that “socialism sucks,” for example, the discussion doesn’t end there. In fact, that’s only the beginning of the discussion.
On campus, Crowe and Werner, who act as the proctors during the meetings, have done an excellent job in making sure that all opinions are heard throughout meeting times, regardless of differences in opinion. They utilize an old-school discussion method — hand raising — to make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak and share their thoughts.
For example, in a recent meeting, some participants made compelling points about the benefits of socialism, such as the financial benefits the system provides for the lower class. While these points do not align with the values and opinions held by Turning Point, these individuals were not asked to leave, nor were they ridiculed or judged for the points they shared.
Instead, the remaining participants, along with Crowe and Werner, were given the opportunity to respond to these points, and to ask questions of the opposing individuals.
Alternate viewpoints — those in opposition to Turning Point — have actually been very helpful in inciting educational conversation, Werner added. The diversity in opinion at each meeting has been more than beneficial in showing the values held by each side of the aisle.
The goal is discussion — and the more open and vulnerable individuals are with their opinions, the more fruitful the discussion becomes.
Ultimately, Turning Point aims to be a space of ideas and questions — a think tank, if you will. Respect from both sides, conservative and liberal, is necessary for proper learning, and so far, Crowe and Werner have made sure to value respectful conversation above all else.
“We want people to stand up for what they believe and what is right,” said Crowe. “People with all different opinions should be able to discuss those opinions.”
In future meetings, Crowe and Werner hope to tackle more hot-button issues such as the abortion debate, the Black Lives Matter movement and the integration of faith and politics.
So, while you may not agree with the fundamental beliefs of Turning Point, just know this: there is a seat reserved just for you at the Turning Point table, and your voice is of the utmost value on these issues. If you’re politically minded and not shy of discourse, this is the perfect outlet for your thoughts.
“At the end of the day, everybody on Taylor's campus is a Christ follower, or at least I hope they are,” Crowe said. “Everyone who attends these meetings is united under that one body, and we need to have love and respect for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”