Student gov DENIES conservative group recognition in secret, closed door meeting

After being denied as a student organization at Drake University, members of an up-and-coming chapter of Turning Point USA  and fellow conservatives on campus are fighting for official registration and recognition by the school.

Drake University Student Government held a pivotal student senate hearing Thursday, deciding whether or not the school would recognize its chapter of Turning Point USA as an official student organization on campus. 

A separate meeting was held two weeks prior, where the same student government voted to approve another organization on campus that promotes an anti-capitalist agenda.

This organization, known as Drake Comrades, describes itself as a group of “anti-capitalist + anti-fascist organizers.”

Social media chairwoman for Turning Point USA at Drake University Katie Moon spoke with Campus Reform about the interaction the chapter had with the school prior to the meeting. Moon said she has been active with Turning Point USA since August and stated that the chapter had filed their motion to be recognized as a student organization in early October. 

Moon described the struggle her group encountered in trying to gain traction on campus, noting that the entirety of the chapter only met “a few times” and a smaller group of chapter members met “once a week.” Moon attributed the lack of traction in part to the fact that the chapter was not allowed to table on campus in order to recruit, due to it not being registered as a student organization. 

Moon says the group was only able to promote and recruit in specific locations on campus. 

[RELATED: TPUSA rejected for not conforming to school's 'values']

In the weeks prior to the meeting, “Members of the comrades went to different buildings across campus, collecting signatures with students saying they did not want to be part of TPUSA; these signatures were not verified,” according to Turning Point USA Chapter President Ellie Reece. 

A 25 tweet thread by Drake Comrade’s Twitter account, documented what it called TPUSA's "rocky history." 

Executive members of the Turning Point USA chapter were present at the meeting to make their case that the group be officially recognized and registered with the university as a student organization. Moon claimed to Campus Reform that the Drake Comrades had been meeting with student senators behind the scenes, telling them that TPUSA was a “white nationalist group” and “a group that supports fascism.” 

Before senate members were able to vote to approve the chapter, a student leader motioned that the meeting transition to an executive session, allowing for more secrecy in meeting records and for the session to be limited to members of student government. 

The student senate voted in favor of the request.

Members from Drake Comrades, “refused to comply with the directives of the Student Senate and a University official to leave the room, forcing Student Senate to relocate to another location,” according to a statement from Drake Dean of Students and Senior Student Affairs Office Jerry Parker.

Campus Reform obtained footage of this exchange between Associate Dean of Student and Deputy Affairs Student Officer Joe Campos and members of Drake Comrades who refused to leave the meeting.

[RELATED: TPUSA chapter denied after being called a 'hate speech group']

“The Dean of Students Office is investigating this disturbance, and the contempt and disorderly conduct showcased at Thursday’s meeting. At this time, Drake Comrades’ rights and privileges as a Recognized Student Organization are suspended until further notice pending the outcome of an investigation," Parker wrote.

After the dissenting group refused to leave, the executive session was ultimately moved into another building on campus. “When we were relocated, the Turning Point USA executive members were brought into a private room with Student Senate, Nick Johnston, where he apologized for the disruption and asked if the group was still willing to continue the appeal, despite the reaction of Drake Comrades,” Reece said.

Upon moving to the new location, Turning Point USA executive members and student senate members were asked to leave their belongings and electronic devices outside.

A question and answer portion of the executive session was held for over an hour, in which student senators asked questions to all Turning Point USA executive members, regarding the student senators’ concerns about the group.

After being questioned by the senate, the Turning Point USA executive members were moved outside of the room where they waited for a verdict for what they estimate to be around 90 minutes. Reece says student senators could be heard from outside “screaming back and forth at each other."

Student Senate President Nick Johnston and Student Senator Ian Klein eventually approached the Turning Point USA executive members and informed them that their motion to be recognized had been denied. 

The members say they were not provided a reason for the outcome. According to student and former Drake University student senator Kollin Crompton, “[It is an] uncommon practice for [the student senate] to go into executive session and provide no reasoning for the organization disapproval.” Crompton says he also tried to start a Turning Point USA chapter in 2016, to no avail. 

“Before coming to Drake, I already knew they had denied Turning Point USA once. I wanted to give it another try. Before I can even submit for approval, I was already being told that it wouldn’t be passed by the [student] senate,” Crompton said.

“I would feel more safe if TPUSA became a registered student organization on campus.” Moon told Campus Reform.

“I don’t feel unsafe on campus, I feel unwelcome, in regards to being a conservative on campus," Reece said. 

[RELATED:  TPUSA deemed 'direct threat,' denied recognition at Santa Clara]

“I have brought it up to the administration that we have not had a conservative speaker on campus. It’s been a long time since we have had a conservative speaker on campus. We have liberal speakers all the time,” Crompton told Campus Reform

Turning Point USA at Drake University is currently in the process of filing a motion to appeal the decision to deny their chapter. Reece told Campus Reform that no member of the student senate replied to her request after the Thursday meeting. 

“We are going to keep trying, it wasn’t over Thursday and it is not over today,” Crompton said. 

“We will continue to appeal until we are recognized,” Moon added.

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