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UW-Stevens Point Reverses Decision On Conservative Student Group

Administration Overrules Student Government On Turning Point USA

Glen Moberg

A University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point administrator has reversed a decision by the school’s student government to deny recognition to a conservative group. The action followed a week of heated controversy on campus.

The UW-Stevens Point Student Government Association refused to recognize Turning Point USA after a three-hour meeting Nov. 9.

On Friday, Al Thompson, vice chancellor for student affairs, reversed the decision.

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“As an institution that values diversity and the freedom to explore all ideas, even unpopular ones, UW-Stevens Point remains committed to a learning environment that respects multiple viewpoints and ensures discourse is civil and our campus is safe for all,” Thompson said in a statement.

In an interview, Thompson called the events of the past week “a learning experience.”

“One of the reasons I overturned it was because I wanted to recognize every person’s voice. We are a learning environment, and if a university cannot have this dialogue, where can you have it?” Thompson asked.

The UW-Stevens Point chapter of Turning Point USA describes itself as an organization dedicated to free speech, capitalism and limited government.

Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, a First Amendment law firm that represents the local chapter of Turning Point USA, thanked the administration.

“Universities cannot deny student groups recognition due to their beliefs,” Langhofer said. “Students have a right to organize around their shared beliefs and the First Amendment protects those rights.”

But Langhofer said the university didn’t go far enough. He said its policy needs to change.

“There’s still an unconstitutional policy in place that allowed the initial denial of Turning Point USA’s application, so we will be addressing that with the school,” Langhofer said. “The policy … could be utilized in the future to deny other groups recognition based upon their viewpoints.”

At the November meeting, students said some members of Turning Point USA encouraged hate speech online and on other campuses.

Lyn Ciurro, a transgender student, said members of marginalized groups would not feel safe if the chapter was officially recognized.

“They would be more likely to not return to school if they knew organizations like these were accepted and are now part of the UW culture,” Ciurro said.

Thompson’s action was hailed by Amelia Heup, chairwoman of the UW-Stevens Point College Republicans.

“We are pleased with the decision,” Heup said. “It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle a student is on, their voice should still be heard. Especially at a public university, we need to recognize all voices on campus.”

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