California Lutheran University’s chapter of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a national nonprofit started by conservative activist and commentator Charlie Kirk, hosted a tabling event on the spine Wednesday Oct. 20 that left some members of the Cal Lutheran community feeling distraught over the club’s views and opinions. As of Monday, Oct. 25, the organization decided to disaffiliate themselves from the university.
Before this event, many people were unaware of this club’s existence on campus.
In a now deleted Instagram post, TPUSA was pictured standing at the spine near Ullman Commons on the day of their event. Members of the club were holding posters with sayings such as “Big Government Scares,” “Let’s get this bread! Because in a socialist country you can’t,” and “I’m pro choice. Pick your gun.”
Social media played a role
Many students took to social media to express their feelings towards the views shared by the club.
Maya Fleming, a senior senator for Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government (ASCLUG), made a post on her Instagram story saying that TPUSA’s pro-gun poster was insensitive as it pertains to a community that was affected by gun violence three years ago.
In an email interview, she said she received over 400 views and had people reply in agreement.
“As a student who actually attended the university during Borderline, remembering the fear and shock that I felt during that entire ordeal wondering if my friends were okay, if anyone I knew was hurt,” Fleming said. “It was scary to see something like that promoted on campus especially so close to the anniversary,” Fleming said.
Junior Chloe Sulewski also shared a post on their Instagram story regarding the ideas shared by TPUSA.
“All the people that responded to it and the people who reposted it were kind of just like on the same wavelength as me of like, you know, this is so insensitive, this is so embarrassing, this is very angering, like, why was this allowed in the first place,” Sulewski said.
Sulewski said she talked to other people who also took issue with how one of the posters mocked the pro-choice movement.
Besides individual students, a new Instagram account called @clu_united created by an anonymous member of the community encouraged people to reach out to the Associated Students of California Lutheran University Government and Student Life with concerns about the club on Oct. 22.
Cal Lutheran’s TPUSA chapter made their Instagram account private after multiple incidents of students posting and tagging the account to voice their discontent.
TPUSA’s status as a club
There were questions about how the chapter was approved by ASCLUG and Student Life.
Director of Student Life Andrea Layne said in an email interview that clubs looking to be approved get a high level overview from Student Life before it is presented to ASCLUG’s Senate, who then checks if the club has met the minimum requirements.
The Echo reached out to Coordinator of Orientation and Student Engagement Leylani Orozco on Oct. 23 to comment on the approval process TPUSA went through but received no response.
In an email interview, ASCLUG President Josh Gatison said the Senate considers what a new club might bring to campus compared to existing clubs.
TPUSA’s chapter was approved by the Senate on Sept. 13, 2021, as confirmed by Gatison.
According to a transcript from the aforementioned meeting, the representative proposing the club said that TPUSA is nonpartisan, would not participate in campaigning activities and does not “associate with any political party.”
Fleming said that her impression of the club when it was proposed was that they would create a place for students to learn about jobs, economic development and potential leadership opportunities. Her perspective on the club changed after learning what the national organization’s views entailed.
“Firstly, while claiming to be a non-partisan org. a lot of their views align directly with the republican party,” Fleming said. “The actual overhead organization also has beliefs rooted in racism, xenophobia and homophobia and all of this information is accessible through their website as in the first few pages so it would be impossible for them to claim it is untrue.”
On Monday Oct. 25, ASCLUG shared a statement on their Instagram announcing that the executive board met with TPUSA, and the club decided they would disaffiliate from Cal Lutheran.
The statement also said that the officers of the club were, “apologetic for any negative impact that was caused by the tabling event,” and that they, “never intended to cause harm to the CLU community.”
“This was something that was decided by the students of TPUSA,” Gatison said.
TPUSA’s Instagram now reflects that they are a Thousand Oaks chapter after their decision to disaffiliate from the school.
The Echo reached out to TPUSA’s president for comment on Oct. 22, 25 and 29 but received no response.
Fleming said that TPUSA disbanding on campus will give students peace of mind knowing that they can live in their identities without hearing hate speech and rhetoric that advocates against their rights.
“It should never be a right to hold and express views that directly impose on the existence of another person EVER and if people had a little more compassion for others rather than only what is in their personal best interest, the world would be a much happier place,” Fleming said.