After a meeting on April 19 the Student Senate officially denied the Taylor University Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) appeal to become an official club in a 13-4 vote in opposition to TPUSA.
The TPUSA group that meets on Taylor’s campus was started earlier this semester by sophomores Kade Werner and Peter Crowe and freshman Jordan Taylor.
“The TPUSA mission statement reads ‘to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom,’” Crowe said. “Turning Point USA does not seek to divide our country. By teaching college students about the importance of conservative values, Turning Point is trying to save this country from the socialist ideology of the left.”
Since then, Taylor’s TPUSA group has sparked conversation and controversy around campus regarding the necessity of a politically conservative discussion forum.
“As a liberal student, I do not feel that my voice is heard at these meetings … perhaps my voice would be better heard with better mediation from the Turning Point leadership, or in a healthier, more inclusive forum altogether,” sophomore and Student Senate member Ellie Campbell said in an earlier Echo article.
Crowe disagrees, saying that meetings have been productive, civil and educational.
Despite students’ split perceptions of this club, Taylor’s TPUSA group decided to pursue official TU club status by appearing before the Student Senate to present their case.
Crowe said that this process began in January by Crowe meeting with Steve Austin, director of student programs; Michael Hammond, provost; Skip Trudeau, vice president for student development.
The benefits of becoming an official TU club include being able to associate the name “Taylor University” with their club, receiving a certain amount of funding and the ability to utilize Taylor University resources such as university vehicles, facilities, social media and other places of advertisement.
Campbell also said that the Taylor TPUSA group was attempting to receive funding from both Taylor and the national TPUSA organization. In the Senate meeting TPUSA leaders suggested that being an official campus club would give them the backing of the national TPUSA organization so that they could host speakers on campus from both sides of the aisle.
“To have an official TPUSA chapter on Taylor's campus is a huge deal and something that every student should want, whether they align as conservative or not,” Crowe said. “... Lastly, by recognizing TPUSA as an official chapter, Taylor would be setting a precedent that they stand for freedom of speech and are willing to allow clubs of particular viewpoints on campus.”
Senior Anna Craig is the Student Body Vice President and chair of the Student Senate. She outlined the process of a group becoming an official Taylor club.
To attain official club status, a group must have all of their executive offices filled, at least 10 members, and a faculty adviser. They also have to make a constitution, have a budget and get approved by the Student Senate and the Community Life Committee.
When asked to comment, TPUSA faculty adviser Richard Smith, associate professor of biblical studies, had nothing to add regarding the Senate proceedings.
Craig said that members of the Student Senate get to ask questions to the students presenting their club before they vote. The Community Life Committee has the final approval on any clubs.
In the deliberation process, senate members anonymously submitted concerns for the group such as TPUSA’s expression of their Taylor club status being vital to their national TPUSA club status, their already established divisive rhetoric and that their mission is not unique with clubs like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) already established on campus.
“TPUSA declined the suggestion of disassociating with the national organization,” Craig said. “Senate believes that the formal affiliation with TPUSA as a national organization whose actions have repeatedly fostered divisiveness through social media and incited conflict on multiple other college campuses would be inconsistent with the mission statement of Taylor University Clubs to foster growth and fellowship in an environment that actively honors one another, in both word and conduct, as fellow image bearers.”
Crowe disagrees with the Student Senate’s ruling on their official club status.
He expressed that he believes members of the Student Senate have chosen to vote from a place of opinion with the intent to silence any disagreement.
“We are greatly disappointed by the denial of our club for official status. Still, we believe that the values and mission of Turning Point USA are imperative to students at Taylor University,” Crowe said. “We will continue to meet unofficially and promote the idea that America is the greatest country in the world!”
While TPUSA is allowed to meet informally on campus, they are not permitted to affiliate their group with the name Taylor University. The group has until May 23 to take this action.
Craig affirmed that the members of Student Senate followed the protocol in the University Club Handbook and committed their time and discernment to serving the Taylor community as a whole