Turning Point USA (TPUSA), a controversial, student-based organizing group has made its way to New College. The conservative organization was founded by Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and radio talk show host, alongside the late conservative activist William Montgomery.
The president of the New College chapter and first-year, Jackson Dawson, spoke to the Catalyst about the values, plans and goals of the student organization. While some might find the views of the larger TPUSA organization abhorrent, including anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, Christian nationalism and COVID-19 conspiracies, the group on campus appears to be staying away from culture war issues.
When asked about the values of the chapter, Dawson said, “We promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government, those are our three main values.” This is a group that “leans conservative,” according to Dawson, as opposed to libertarianism.
So far, the group has had a limited presence on campus, with only three events: participation in Novopalooza to raise awareness of the group, a 9/11 flag-planting memorial and a pizza party for the Sept. 27 GOP Presidential Debate. At the debate watch party, there were Democrats and conservatives there to enjoy pizza and watch GOP candidates poll lower than the candidate being actively indicted. “Our last event was probably split 50/50,” Dawson said.
When asked about TPUSA’s plans for school government or local politics, Dawson explained that “our club, we don’t try to endorse candidates. . . we had members run [for school government] but we didn’t endorse them at all, it’s not a political campaign or anything like that . . . Maybe their values align with [ours] but we don’t promote them.”
With regard to the group’s ability to coexist with the wide arrays of views on campus, Dawson answered, “I personally feel like we’ve been super nice to both parties. . . We’re here promoting values, not candidates; we’re not trying to scare people away.”
Concerning ties to the larger TPUSA network, Dawson said “Yes, we’re a part of the larger organization, but we’re our own individual club. . . the larger organization might endorse other people, but our club doesn’t endorse.” Dawson said that the group did not receive any funding from the larger TPUSA network.
The group is currently sticking to a schedule of two events per month and might cut down to one a month during midterms and breaks. Dawson said the next event will probably be at the end of October or early November. They plan on having local government officials speak to the club in the future.
There are currently 34 members of the TPUSA New College chapter, with Dawson calling it “pretty good for us.” An official Instagram statement from the chapter addressed the accessibility of the club to LGBTQ+ or left-leaning students this way:
“Yes of course, we promote the values of freedom, free markets and limited government. There is no discrimination against gender as long as you want to contribute to the conversation in a positive manner, everyone is welcome.”
The controversy following the larger organization, which has its own dedicated page on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, hasn’t reached the chapter here. The campus group’s activities have been focused on less contentious issues and away from disrupting any other organizations they may disagree with politically.