WI state sen. 'confident' admins will overturn TPUSA rejection

After speaking with UWSP Vice Chancellor Al Thompson, State Sen. Patrick Testin said he is "pleased" that the school has asked student government to review the decision, but suspects that administrators will ultimately have to take action.

A state senator says he is “confident” that the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will overturn the recent rejection of a Turning Point USA chapter by student government.

A state senator says he is “confident” that the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will overturn the recent rejection of a Turning Point USA chapter by student government.

As previously reported by Campus Reform, the UWSP student government recently voted to deny a prospective TPUSA chapter official recognition as a student group following a contentious meeting, during which students accused TPUSA of being “dangerous,” a “threat,” and a “hate speech group” that “attacks people of different backgrounds,” saying the group’s presence on campus would therefore make students feel “unsafe.”

[RELATED: Student gov rejects TPUSA chapter after public pillorying]

Wisconsin State Senator Patrick Testin told Campus Reform that after speaking with UWSP Vice Chancellor Al Thompson on Thursday, he believes that the school is going to reverse the decision, provided that the student government had not already done so at its Thursday meeting.

Campus Reform has inquired as to the outcome of that meeting, and is currently awaiting a response.

Testin said that while he thinks that the school is “well aware that they are on shaky legal ground,” he remained skeptical that student government would reverse its decision, remarking that “I think that the campus administration was hoping that [student government] would take it upon themselves; it sounds like they’re not going to.”

While he said he is “pleased” to see the administration take action, Testin contends that it is “still unfortunate that the administrators had to step in and do this, especially in a state like Wisconsin where we have a really stored history of shared governance, and of giving students broad authority within universities to govern themselves.”

[RELATED: Wisconsin Dems complain free speech bill targets UW-Madison]

Testin, himself a UWSP alum and former student senator, spoke out about the event in both a November 14 press release and an op-ed entitled “Intellectual Diversity Helps Students Grow” in which he expresses concern about the decision’s impact on students.  

“I believe the SGA’s decision encourages students to adopt a fearful, insulated mentality that will lead to increased stridency in our political discourse,” he writes. “At its best, communication breaks down barriers between people; even if two people don’t agree at the end of a discussion, they should be able to walk away with a better understanding of each other, and hopefully, a mutual respect.

“The SGA’s rejection of a group that advocates free market principles hinders communication by shutting out an important voice from the discussion, and sends the message to students that these views should be marginalized,” he added, saying, “Those on campus who happen to agree with the organization’s views are left feeling unwelcome, unwanted, and unheard.”

[RELATED: Conservative student flees radical climate at Evergreen State]

“I’m really disappointed with what has transpired over there, and I’m happy to stand up for the conservative students who have had their voices basically silenced,” Testin told Campus Reform.  “I believe this decision stifles the free expression of ideas on campus and is antithetical to the mission of the university.”

The senator also expressed his disappointment in the student government specifically, telling Campus Reform that when he was a member of the same body, he never once voted against a group simply because he did not agree with its platform.

“Going back to my days in student government, there were a number of times when groups would come before me whose mission statements, charters, and constitutions I did not agree with whatsoever, but I never voted against one of those groups, because I understand and know that they have every right to organize, peacefully assemble, and advocate for their first amendment rights on campus,” he declared.

“This is a first, that I’m aware of, at my alma mater which is really, really disappointing,” Testin added, saying “tt drips with irony and hypocrisy” that the group advocating for free speech is the one that gets silenced and pointing out that “When one side is shouting down the other, that doesn’t foster healthy debate at all.”

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