March 6, 2017
Note from Avery Unterreiner: “The following is an email I wrote in response to Jeanne Rosenberger and the administration’s decision to overturn the Senate’s vote and give Turning Point USA RSO status for the rest of the year. I would like it to be clear that I worked with Jeanne as an undergraduate student, and have the utmost respect for her and her position. However, I do not respect this particular decision, and felt the need to express my anger and frustration, as well as my commitment to allyship with current and future Broncos.”
Jeanne Rosenberger, Fr. Michael Engh, S.J., and others whom it may concern,
I spent most of the day today thinking about what I could say to you to express the intensity of my feelings regarding the decision to approve TPUSA as an RSO, against the vote of ASG Senate and its confirmation by the Judicial branch. I have sat by my computer for an hour now with my stomach turning and my feelings oscillating between disillusionment, disgust and anger. I am writing in the hopes that you will understand why I and many others feel this way.
I’ve been closely following the news from Santa Clara this year and I have watched from the start as Turning Point USA attempted to legitimize itself as a Registered Student Organization. I watched as the Senate—of whom I am incredibly proud of as last year’s Chair—treated TPUSA’s proposal, their arguments and their leaders with respect, care and thoughtful consideration.
I watched other Santa Clara students stand in front of TPUSA and express their justifiable anger at the possibility of an organization coming onto campus that is associated with white supremacists, a professor watchlist that seeks to silence their right to opine in their own classrooms and conservative talking heads who hold blatantly misogynistic, Islamophobic and transphobic views. I watched as they debated fairly, listened intently and exercised their power as student representatives to make informed votes that denied TPUSA RSO status for the current quarter.
I watched as conservative news outlets spun a tale mocking, oversimplifying and grossly misrepresenting the democratic proceedings of the Senate and the voices of student leaders there to participate in it. I watched members of TPUSA share these stories across social media like they were fact. I watched as ASG valiantly worked to get the truth heard in spite of those who sought to quash it. Then on Saturday morning, I woke up to see you had reversed the Senate’s decision in light of the firestorm of complaints Turning Point brought upon you.
And I am infuriated.
Last year, I was both the Senate Chair on ASG and the Associate Director of SCCAP. I dedicated my entire school year, hours and hours a week, to two CSOs whose missions I am deeply passionate about. Once I made the choice to take on these major responsibilities, I committed myself to working toward the highest standards of excellence in leadership I could. It made last year the hardest year of my entire life, but also the most rewarding.
I faced, time and again, people and obstacles and societal norms that made me feel as though nothing I was doing made a difference and as though every mistake I made was monumental. By the middle of the year, I was forced to confront something I never expected to: I had significant anxiety issues and the status of my mental health was in utter disaster. I tell you this story because my experience is not a unique one. The student leaders I know and admire, many of whom have been involved in this process with you, are more driven and passionate than anyone else I am likely to meet in my lifetime. All too frequently they work themselves into the ground in their efforts to serve their fellow Broncos.
I want to make it clear what your decision says to them: your work, your time, your passion, your thought and your ability to lead with integrity are only valid until the administration disagrees with them.
You are telling student leaders that the power given to them by the student body to be just and fair representatives can be taken away by conservative donors, bad press and a group of students who yell loudly enough and to the right people.
I do not know what it is like to be a racial minority here at Santa Clara, but I have opened my ears to students of color over the past four years and what I have heard is heartbreaking. The routine, ingrained, pervasive discrimination my peers face is a problem Santa Clara should be focused on almost singularly—more than building beautiful new structures, more than touting its diversity statistics and certainly more than legitimizing student groups who will use their voices to silence those who speak out for their right to exist on our campus. And while I don’t know what it’s like to be racial minority, I do know what it’s like to be told over and over again that the “intellectual” opinions of the detached, privileged, and powerful are more valid than the “emotional” opinions of the communities whose very lives their privileged opinions threaten.
By bowing to TPUSA’s pressure, you make the statement that it is loud voices, not strong ones, who get their way. You tell students who have expressed concerns about their own well-being that public opinion ranks higher on your scale of concern than care for the students whom it is your job to serve.
When swastikas are drawn in residence halls and white supremacist groups take over the ethnic studies bulletin board, emails are sent telling us that this isn’t what Santa Clara stands for. But when a student group that wants to affiliate with a national organization that vilifies professors who speak about white privilege in the classroom, you override the decisions of student leaders and register TPUSA as an RSO yourself.
Jeanne, I respect you deeply and appreciate the work you do, including the difficult decisions you are asked to make. But this time, I really think you made the wrong one.
Avery Unterreiner is a Santa Clara graduate of the class of 2016 and served as ASG’s senate chair in the 2015-2016 academic year. She is currently a master’s student in Santa Clara’s teaching program.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University.