LETTER: A response to SAGA’s statement against Turning Point USA

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This letter to the editor was written by Kansas State alumna Carmen Schober. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

I’ll keep this short — because frankly, these kinds of conflicts happen so often on college campuses that it’s getting kind of boring.

Basically: The Sexuality and Gender Alliance at Kansas State University is upset that the Student Governing Association gave K-State’s Turning Point USA chapter money to host an event about protecting and promoting free speech called “Fighting for the First,” and SAGA wants to shut the event down.

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Courtesy Photo by the K-State Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Yes, the irony is too perfect. Here are their reasons:

1. SAGA claims that the event’s speakers are “hostile and derogatory to marginalized communities,” and they “peddle incendiary rhetoric that disparages marginalized individuals.”

2. They also don’t like TPUSA because apparently it does not “represent K-State’s Principles of Community,” the organization has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law center and also because TPUSA has a “Professor Watchlist” that allegedly seeks to “silence” non-conservative professors.

3. Lastly, and most dramatically: According to SAGA, these conservative speakers’ mere presence would be an “affront to the values of the university,” and SGA giving K-State’s TPUSA chapter funds to host them means that SGA isn’t committed to protecting “students from all walks of life.”

Whew. Well, their first reason is unsurprisingly vague.

Not only does SAGA fail to cite any actual hostile, derogatory or incendiary rhetoric, but they also fail to define what marginalized communities or individuals they’re concerned about.

Generally, on college campuses, I think Christians are the most marginalized group who face the most prejudice from their professors and peers, followed by conservatives, so it’s actually a very good thing that right-of-center speakers will be giving a voice to students who belong to those marginalized communities (see Professor George Yancey’s work on biases in academia).

Additionally, the speakers in question are DC Draino, Elijah “Slightly Offens*ve” Schaffer and Fleccas, all of whom have large online platforms, so if their rhetoric is actually “incendiary,” SAGA should be able (and required) to back up its claim with some evidence.

SAGA should also be sure that the university hasn’t hosted any leftist speakers who have said hostile or derogatory things about conservatives, Christians or other groups that aren’t protected under the warped umbrella of progressivism. I’ll go ahead and save you some trouble: the university most certainly has.

SAGA’s second reason isn’t particularly compelling, either. Yes, TPUSA has been criticized by some “alt-left” groups… and? Who hasn’t these days? SAGA even cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as a source for this claim while the law center is currently going up in flames in a beautiful blaze of karmic glory following internal harassment allegations.

As far as their other claim about TPUSA’s “Professor Watchlist” being contradictory to promoting free speech, even just a cursory glance at the list will reveal that it’s not an attempt to “silence” anyone by, for example, shutting down their events. It’s simply a well-documented list of professors who have said incendiary, hostile and derogatory things about non-liberal students or groups.

Reason number three is the lamest of all. Despite the popularity of this widespread sentiment among college students, the university does not exist to protect you from words and people you don’t like. Ideally, it trains you to think critically and argue effectively (using words) with people you don’t agree with. Or, depending on the situation, such as optional events, you can just not attend.

When I was earning my degree at K-State, my department hosted a leftist writer, and I was encouraged to attend his reading. A few minutes in, it became apparent that his work glamorized rape and pedophilia, and that was an affront to my values.

However, instead of attempting to bully multiple people and organizations to bend to my will and have the man forcibly removed, I simply walked out and got a coffee. Try it sometime.

Rather than attending “Fighting for the First” on Thursday in the Union and learning about diversity of thought and the problem of censorship on college campuses, SAGA encourages you to attend a “College of Arts and Sciences Diversity Summit” instead, so you can be reminded of the importance of diversity in a safe, non-challenging space with people who agree about everything.

Assuming K-State doesn’t cave on protecting free speech, I know where I’ll be. The choice is up to you.

Carmen Schober is a Kansas State graduate who earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2013 and a master’s degree in English in 2015. She also served as an instructor, coordinator and tutor. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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