The Student Government Association of Emory & Henry College met virtually on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to discuss a chapter of Turning Point USA, a controversial organization that claims to be nonpartisan but that is often identified as right-wing, coming to campus.
No senator wanted to draft the bill that would allow a Turning Point chapter at E&H, but Senator Earl Settle presented bill 523 in the spirit of fairness.
SGA President David Eldridge began the discussion by presenting evidence taken from Turning Point’s national Instagram account showcasing the “Freak of the Week,” a segment meant to demean its central target. President Eldridge brought forth a video from said segment belittling Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago, Illinois.
Attendees also pointed out that many of Turning Point’s posts in addition to “Freak of the Week” are racist and often delegitimize COVID-19 concerns.
After President Elridge gave his presentation, Senator Braxton Justice stated how he did not approve of having the group on campus, and asked Zachary Cain, the president of the unofficial chapter – also the only member of the group to speak at the meeting – why Turning Point was chosen instead of associating with a group that does not have such controversial views.
Cain stated that Turning Point was chosen because he and his fellow charter seekers wanted a nonpartisan group to uphold Turning Point’s ideals, but not its political beliefs. Cain also made it known that he previously looked into other groups, but decided against them because he did not agree with some of their actions in the past.
Later in the meeting, a student asked for input from the other members of Cain’s group, but none answered.
Senator Desirhea Morton brought up that having this organization on campus would be detrimental to what E&H strives to achieve in terms of inclusion and acceptance. She remarked that it would turn back efforts that were made during the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement the week before.
“I think the group made a misstep when they aligned themselves with an organization that has derided the Black Lives Matter movement and its leaders and calls into question the validity of COVID-19 and the integrity of the 2020 Presidential Election,” Senator Clare Carter said.
Cain was later asked about an Instagram post from his unofficial chapter that denounced the Black Lives Matter Movement as a terrorist organization. He denied that the post had been made.
Screenshots of the unofficial chapter’s Instagram posts were sent to Travis Proffit, Dean of Student Success, however, that proved Cain’s claim to be a lie. These posts were what led the unofficial chapter’s Instagram account to go private earlier this month, after scores of students called the group out via social media.
Members of the Senate stated that, if the group was not spreading hate messages online, it had no reason to keep a private account, especially if they wanted to spread their influence. Cain admitted that the unofficial chapter’s state representative advised them to go private to prevent students from commenting on the group’s actions.
Concern surrounding the national Turning Point organization potentially supporting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the capital was also discussed.
In the end, the SGA unanimously voted against Cain and the unofficial chapter.
Cain was instructed to communicate with Turning Point headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona to revoke the request for E&H to host an official chapter. He was ordered to remove any affiliation with the college from the unofficial chapter’s Instagram account.
The Senate also asked the group that they assure no one would be harassed by members of the unofficial chapter, in any way, after the final decision was made.
One year from now, the unofficial chapter will be able to try again to establish themselves at E&H, if they so wish.