Logan Kolssak, a senior marketing major, said it took him three years to find people on Point Loma Nazarene University’s campus who support his political beliefs. Three years at a private, Christian liberal arts university to find conservatives like himself. In fact, Kolssak says he’s been met with hardship in this process.
“I’ve been screamed at in the caf because of my political beliefs. That’s not right. And at a school that preaches inclusivity and diversity. Inclusivity and diversity goes beyond skin color, it’s what you believe, why you believe it and including those people in discussions. But conservatives in pretty much every aspect I’ve been a part of have been openly shut down,” said Kolssak.
In order to create the community he desired, Kolssak sought to establish a Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter on PLNU’s campus. This was the second time this club was proposed to the Associated Student Body (ASB) board of directors to approve, and again it was denied, this time with a split vote of 4-3.
When the application came in from Kolssak, the proposed president of PLNU’s chapter of TPUSA, on Sept. 1, ASB Director of Student Relations, Kaitlyn Harris, said she deferred her choice to accept or deny the club to the whole ASB board in order to get an unbiased decision.
“There’s been a lot of deep, thoughtful conversations among the whole board, which is really good for making sure all our bases are covered and making sure we’re seeing every aspect of the decision,” Harris said.
ASB made an adjustment last semester so that even if the director of student relations decides to deny a club, a motion to deny it still must be brought to the whole board for vote to avoid bias.
According to ASB President Ella Malone, what she saw as the main reason for TPUSA being denied was because of the lack of alignment with section b of ASB’s mission statement “(b) to foster constructive communication and interaction between the members and the administration and faculty.”
Malone said what often came up in conversation was the element of the professor watchlist and how it does not foster communication between students and faculty as well as divisive language seen in the past when TPUSA’s club application was first denied.
“Overall we say ASB doesn’t approve of Turning Point, but that’s not true. We have three people who said yes, that Turning Point should be on campus, should be allowed, Turning Point doesn’t negate our mission statement, our values, in fact it benefits it,” Kolssak said.
According to the Professor Watchlist website, “Professor Watchlist is a project of 501(c)3 non-profit Turning Point USA. The mission of Professor Watchlist is to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Jonathan Graubart, professor of political science at San Diego State University, is a member of this professor watchlist due to a post he made on his personal Facebook account. He said he has had an uneventful experience thus far.
“I’ve had a few students from Turning Point in my classes since then and they’ve been fine. It doesn’t seem to have any bite toward me. I have a vague memory of maybe at one point I got some random complaint shortly after it came out but that’s been it,” Graubart said.
When it comes to whether TPUSA should have a place on a college campus, Graubart said that he’s all for getting as many voices as possible, as long as the university has policies in place to deal with targeted harassments. Graubart said this call for a policy is so that himself, other faculty and even students who end up being attacked by groups like TPUSA have some protection provided by the university.
“I think rather than trying to ban them, which gives them more of a cause… really you just need proactive things to deal with potential harassment because I think Turning Point is looking to provoke fights,” Graubart said.
Some students said in the comment section of a recent Instagram post from The Point, that denying TPUSA on PLNU’s campus is a violation of their constitutional right to free speech. Scott McGowan, director of community life and ASB board of directors, said, in an email interview, that because PLNU is a private school, the issue becomes more of an exchange of freedoms. An example McGowan offered was when working at a job, an employee reduces their positive freedom in exchange for the avoidance of the negative freedom to have no money.
“I think that in our PLNU community we each willingly curtail several of our positive freedoms – think substance consumption and sexual activity, among others – in order to live and work on a campus where we are largely free from the disruptive chaos those positive freedoms can produce,” McGowan said.
Since the beginning of the discussion of TPUSA, McGowan has been advocating for students to create their own civil, civic discourse club that brings representation to conservative ideology, saying such a club is not just appropriate, but needed on PLNU’s campus. However, students have not shown interest in this option.
Kolssak emphasized the importance of having the specific club, TPUSA, represented. Part of his reasoning being that TPUSA can provide resources and funding for events.
“Turning Point USA is a national organization with thousands of chapters across the entire United States. And because of that we are able to nationally unify with conservatives instead of just saying ‘conservatives on Point Loma’s campus.’ You’re able to have a community of people that extends beyond the reach of our school and I think that’s important,” Kolssak said.
Despite TPUSA being officially denied by PLNU’s ASB, Kolssak plans to move forward with forming a club on campus. Kolssak is currently working with faculty who support Turning Point and want to independently sponsor the club outside of ASB. TPUSA plans on hosting a speaker either on PLNU’s campus or at a venue if needed.
“We’ll have a club no matter what, and then we’ll just do what we do. We’ll get involved with things, we’ll meet, we’ll throw fun events. And we’ll just continue normally as if we were chartered by ASB but now we just have ASB saying ‘We don’t approve of you,’ and that’s really the only difference it makes,” Kolssak said.
By: Noah Harrel