Executive Board

Turning Point denied Union affiliation

By Darby Burns January 24, 2018

On Thursday, January 18, people crowded into the Shelnutt Gallery on the third floor of the Union to witness the third discussion of a motion to approve Turning Point USA at Rensselaer as a Union-affiliated club. The motion failed 4-12-2.

The meeting started out with a brief presentation by President of the Union Matthew Rand ’19 regarding the logistics of Executive Board meetings and his expectations for people’s behavior in the meeting. He said that all questions for Turning Point’s representatives should be about the organization as a whole and that there should be no personal attacks. He also reminded everyone of the rule requiring all interested parties to leave the room while the Board discusses the merits of the motion.

Photos: Sidney Kochman/The Polytechnic and Nicholas Luczak/The Polytechnic

Former Grand Marshal Paul Ilori ’18 served as parliamentarian for the duration of the meeting.

Representatives of Turning Point presented on their club and its goals and values. There to present were President Nessa Costa ’20, Treasurer James Rockwell ’19, Social Media Coordinator Daniel Schnoll ’20, and Secretary Curran Kalia ’18. Costa started with a description of the club, saying that they deal primarily with conservative fiscal values.

The presentation ended quickly and the meeting progressed into the question and answer portion. Bryan Johns ’19 expressed a concern that he believed a lot of people had, saying that social conservatism and personal opinions often overlap with fiscal opinions. He asked Turning Point how they plan to deal with such an issue. Costa replied she won’t be responding to social questions because Turning Point focuses on fiscal, not social issues.

Class of 2019 Representative David Raab ’19 said that as a national organization, Turning Point has done a few “sketchy” things, citing the influencing of elections and the “Professor Watchlist.” He asked why the club members chose to be affiliated with Turning Point specifically, when the national organization has done things that create a bad environment.

The club said that they had already discussed the watchlist and agreed that they will not be participating. They said they chose Turning Point because it is a uniquely large platform, they agree with the majority of the organization’s values, and the organization provides financial support.

In response to another question from the crowd asking their stance on freedom of speech and how that extends to hate speech, they stated that they believe fully in free speech and are anti-censorship.

Club/ICA Representative Brookelyn Parslow ’20 asked what they will do if they do not become Union-affiliated. She then asked if they would be willing to give up their affiliation with Turning Point. They responded saying that they would have to talk and discuss their course of action. They said they could potentially do that, but that’s not desirable.

When asked about racist posts in their Facebook group, they responded that their platform is open and is a way for people to express themselves. They also said that individual members don’t speak for the entirety of the club.

Club/ICA Representative Kay Sun ’19 stressed that social media accounts should reflect club beliefs, not just support all free speech. She asked if they could put something about that in their constitution. Members emphasized that they won’t suppress freedom of speech and expression, and that they believe that their constitution already disallows hate speech.

Sun clarified that she doesn’t believe it makes sense for them to have things on their social media that aren’t part of the club and what they stand for and represent. They replied saying that they are still learning, and in the past they have gone through and deleted posts that were not relevant.

On the topic of removing people from the Facebook group, members commented that they have in cases where people were constantly a problem and didn’t want to learn, but only create issues.

Graduate Representative CJ Markum started his line of questioning by asking about the board of directors and advisory board that Turning Point has as a national organization—a topic that members present did not know about.

He also asked about how the club would interact with the school, referencing RPI’s nondiscrimination policy specifically. Upon being asked, Turning Point said they would be willing to act based on these policies, but that they weren’t aware of any hate speech issues and didn’t expect to see any. Markum expressed that if something came up that did violate policies, the officers would be in trouble, not just the students who did it.

When asked if, should they be approved, they would be willing to allow an administrator or faculty member to be a part of their Facebook group to serve as a regulator, they agreed that that would be fine. They also agreed to put a disclaimer on their Facebook group containing the values of the club.

In response to a question about what their activities would look like if they did become Union-affiliated, they said that they would hold events to try and get people to vote, participate in tabling and postering, and host debates and speakers. Later, when they were asked if they would be willing to allow their speakers to be vetted through the normal Institute process, they said they would comply.

When asked about their funding and how it comes from the national Turning Point organization, they said that it provides things like merchandise and funding if needed. In order for them to receive the funding they would have to apply for it, and it wouldn’t be guaranteed.

After an hour and a half of questioning, a motion to close the queue passed 16-0-2.

When discussion moved into the merits of the motion to approve the affiliation of Turning Point USA at RPI, a request was made for a roll call vote, which can be seen at poly.rpi.edu/s/tprollcall.

Markum brought up peer institutions, which he learned about during his time as a senator, and said that of the fifteen he went through, all of which have policies very similar to RPI’s, three of them have Turning Point chapters.

Member-at-Large Brian Mansaku ’19 reminded the E-Board of the importance of diversity on campus, saying that diversity includes diversity of thought.

After continued discussion, a second motion to close the queue passed 15-2-1.

The motion to approve Turning Point USA at RPI as a Union-affiliated club failed 4-12-2.

A few minutes later, all interested parties were let back into the room and informed of the E-Board’s decision, besides Turning Point members due to their having prior commitments. Costa sent screenshots to Class of 2018 Representative Erica Lane ’18, which Lane read aloud, of a text conversation she had where she was informed threats overheard in the conversations community members had while waiting outside the room for the decision to be made.

The text conversation described threats to “make a display that Nazis aren’t wanted here and hang them like they did the Obama doll. Referring to people who hung and burned Obama doll when elected [sic]” and “people are saying they’re going to NAACP. I just heard more people saying they’ll ensure you never can get careers if club gets approved [sic].”

Markum later motioned to investigate clubs that have connections to national organizations through an ad hoc committee, and after some discussion the motion passed 13-3-2. A motion to appoint Markum as chair of the committee passed 15-0-3.

Lane, in the last few minutes of the meeting, announced her resignation from her position on E-Board and as chairperson of the Club Operations Committee.

When asked for later comment on the meeting, Costa said, “We definitely figured there would be pushback but what happened at the E-Board meeting was crazy. It just sucks that RPI doesn’t protect our right to free speech and isn’t accepting of all student views.

“I plan on reaching out to Turning Point headquarters, Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and anyone I can that typically cover the BS conservatives deal with on college campuses nationwide.”