Drawing national attention, Texas State’s Student Government voted by majority April 8 to bar conservative student organization Turning Point USA from campus, an action most likely to be blocked by administrative officials.
The meeting was one of the longest in SG’s recorded history, with about 27 people from both sides of the spectrum approaching the podium to plead a case. The much-anticipated vote had garnered the ire of several state officials, including Governor Greg Abbott.
The contentious legislation, named as “The Faculty and Student Safety Resolution of 2019”, was authored by Sens. Claudia Gasponi and Trevor Newman, sponsored by Sen. Alexa Browning and Sen. Ex -Officio Jules Perrodin.
“The University and Student Government hope to foster a learning environment in which one can learn without fear of discrimination, intimidation, or censorship,” states the legislation.
Following the initial reading of the legislation April 1, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs issued a campus-wide statement via email April 4 affirming student organizations’ First Amendment rights and backing Turning Point USA’s stay on campus.
“In accordance with the First Amendment and university policy, recognized student organizations will not be barred from Texas State University campuses unless they are under university-imposed disciplinary sanctions,” the email stated. “I urge all students to be mindful of the First Amendment rights that each of you are guaranteed.”
The legislation states the barring of TPUSA is also rooted in an attempt to curb any future tampering in Student Government elections, which TPUSA has done across the country through the Campus Victory Project. Texas State has been listed as a “full victory” in the Campus Victory Project’s brochure, indicating a successfully influenced campaign.
A University Star investigation uncovered Student Government members’ history with TPUSA. Former President Brooklyn Boreing was accused in fall 2018 of having received unreported donations from the conservative political action committee, resulting in her resignation a few weeks later. Student Government started a formal investigation but concluded with no corroborating evidence.
After an hour-and-a-half-long public forum in the LBJ Student Center’s Teaching Theater, the Senate interrupted to take a vote, which ended in a majority voting to ban the organization from campus. The passing was quickly retracted, however, and the Senate called for another vote.
The authors attempted to rewrite the amendment during the meeting, which included suspending the organization rather than banning it. The Senate denied the proposed ratification, but all names listed in the amendment were removed.
The re-vote originally resulted in a denial of the amendment, but the senators consulted Robert’s Rules of Order, the governing procedural document and found a mistake was made in which abstentions were counted toward the overall vote. After correcting the vote count, the legislation banning Turning Point USA from campus was passed.
“Thank you to the authors of the legislation,” said Stormi Rodriguez, president of Turning Point USA’s Texas State chapter. “You have publicized the message of this organization more than I ever could.”
Browning, Gasponi and Newman believe Lecturer Kelly Stone was targeted by TPUSA and had a class removed from the registrar and her contract not renewed as a result. Stone taught “Sexuality Across the Lifespan”, a class that was removed from the spring 2019 schedule after a TPUSA member in the class allegedly complained to administrators about the course. Stone said TPUSA’s removal from campus is less about free speech and more about corruption.
“I have protected students from the harassment of other students,” Stone said. “I was told to stop teaching about sexuality because it is liberal.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit focused on protecting First Amendment rights on college campuses, rated Texas State as one of the top 10 worst campuses for free speech in 2018. FIRE released a statement regarding Student Government’s authority in banning TPUSA from campus.
“Should it pass, Texas State University is barred by the First Amendment from effectuating these demands,” William Rickards, communications coordinator for FIRE, stated in the press release. “While the Texas State student government is free to condemn TPUSA and demand that they be barred from campus, Texas State as an entity may not give into the demand to bar a group from campus, or deny it recognition or funding because of its beliefs or advocacy.”
The student government meeting adjourned around 11:30 p.m. Administrators have not yet commented on the passing of the legislation or the fate of TPUSA on campus.
Sawyer Click contributed to this story.