March 6, 2017
An open letter to Jeanne Rosenberger and the larger Santa Clara Administration:
I am beyond words at the recent decision by the Vice Provost of Student Life to officiate Turning Point USA as a Registered Student Organization after the student senate denied the group and the student court upheld the senate’s decision.
It is extra shocking due to the nature of why the club was protested and blocked, namely because the national organization has very clear, although oft denied, ties to the alt-right.
More specifically, it has ties to Milo Yiannopoulos who has, in the past, singled out a transgender student for harassment at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee during one of his speaking engagements. This is particularly relevant for me as a member of the trans and non-binary communities that the Michigan student is also a member of.
The intentions of the Santa Clara TPUSA chapter leadership aside, the national organization has ties to highly inflammatory individuals. This only validates the sense of fear and determination present in the room during the initial ASG Senate hearing.
Additionally, the group espouses free speech, yet the national charter has a very Mccarthy-esque professor watch list.
The club members failed to clearly articulate how they differentiate themselves from the College Republicans when the three central points of both group’s constitutional missions are nearly identical. Attempts were made to clarify this point at the ASG hearing, but their argument flip-flopped several times.
The club failed to clarify how it was separate from other clubs, why it needed to be there and how it fulfills the university’s mission and aligns with Jesuit values—other than simply being a cause with a desire to speak and have access to the university’s brand and resources, which, for the record is a status beyond their right to free speech which they had access to before even petitioning for RSO status.
TPUSA club members have stated several times that fear is unwarranted, but how the incident has been handled in the media has proven otherwise. Of particular concern are the video recordings of the hearing broadcast in places like Fox News.
Even if the members of TPUSA had the right to record the proceedings, the university usually recognizes the need for a consent waiver for any picture or film to be distributed widely.
One can deduce from the angles that the videos circulating on national media were taken from TPUSA members who were recording the proceedings. Recordings of students were released to national news sources without their consent, leading to palpable fear in several marginalized communities on campus.
The immense protection this club has received from Santa Clara’s administration is startling to me. They are being given an apparent level of privilege that becomes discouraging when compared to the rigorous and discouraging process that the National Alliance on Mental Illness on campus went through.
Our initial plan to host several small groups based on different mental health symptoms was shot down over a liability concern. We were told that these groups were too risky without a licensed mental health practitioner present, but we were not given any support in finding one.
I want to drive home the point that NAMI, which had the express goal of promoting student wellness, experienced such intense scrutiny while other branches of the national TPUSA organization have sponsored sponsors speakers who directly target students with marginalized identities.
The same vice provost who made this sweeping declaration against the decision of the senate and judiciary, also stood firmly in the way of an already approved student club, which wanted to establish community support for those on campus living with mental illnesses.
If the school leaned on its Jesuit values of “Cura Personalis,” caring for the whole person, I would think that the valid fear felt by already marginalized students would take precedence over the desire for freedom of speech from apparently privileged students. Especially given all the baggage associated with the national charter discussed above.
In the aftermath of the senate decision, there was a media firestorm. One story has a particularly poignant quote in light of recent events. A Feb. 9 Mercury News article reported that “Santa Clara University spokeswoman Deepa Arora said the university leaves it to student leaders to decide on granting Student Recognized Organization status, though a faculty adviser is involved.”
She said that all groups that apply will be “held accountable to the standards and norms of conduct and civility that help constitute a Catholic, Jesuit campus community” and that the administration “respects the process that is in place.”
Based on the recent decision by the vice provost, it is clear that the administration does NOT respect established student processes or the voices of marginalized students and that the exceptions the administration makes do not align with the social justice principles that our Jesuit university was founded on.
Jeanne and the administration, I firmly believe that you made the wrong call here. I strongly recommend correcting yourselves of your own free will before you go down in history as offering support in money and other resources to a chapter of a dangerous and McCarthyist national organization, despite the valid fears of the marginalized students you claim to have a vested interest in caring for.
Jay Bassett is a senior studying business management and women’s and gender studies. Bassett is the lead coordinator for IgnatianQ, the Ignatian LGBTQIA+ & Ally Conference at Santa Clara, as well as the logistics chair for Santa Clara Queer.
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.