Drake University student senate discriminates against conservative club and denies official recognition due to ‘harmful’ views

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Members of Drake University’s Turning Point USA Chapter.

by fire

May 11, 2022

Student senator advocating denial: “I think everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but I think there comes a time when those beliefs become harmful to others.”

DES MOINES, Iowa, May 11, 2022 – After six years and three attempts to gain official school recognition, the group of potential Turning Point USA students is still in limbo at Drake University. The heist ? Drake’s student senators, who voted against the group for what they saw as its “harmful” conservative beliefs.

Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called Drake to end viewpoint discrimination and quickly process TPUSA’s application for recognition.

“Why do student senators determine which beliefs are too ‘harmful’ to be allowed on campus?” said Sabrina Conza, FIRE program manager. “These students were elected to the student senate, not the thought police. They represent the entire student body, not just the students whose beliefs make them warm and fuzzy.

TPUSA has been active on the Drake campus for six years, but because it is not a registered student group, students cannot book on-campus event space, apply for funding, or open accounts. finances on campus. By continuing to deny recognition, the Drake Student Senate prevents the group from meaningfully participating in the Drake University community.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Drake TPUSA member Andie Morrissey. “A university that prides itself on being inclusive doesn’t seem to understand that being inclusive means including those you disagree with.

TPUSA had previously applied for official recognition in 2016 and 2019. In 2019, the Drake Comrades, a communist student group, protested during the TPUSA hearing and law enforcement intervened. The student senate had to move to another room, TPUSA members were unable to enter the room, and no cameras were allowed during the vote, which decided against TPUSA..

On March 24, TPUSA members attempted to be recognized for the third time. A video of the Student Senate hearing shows student senators discussing the TPUSA candidacy and explaining the reasons for their decision to vote against TPUSA. One senator said, “I think everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but I think there comes a time when those beliefs become harmful to others.

“I don’t quite see the need for an organization like this…” said another. “If this organization makes people on campus feel uncomfortable and afraid for their own safety, then I can’t support that.”

The TPUSA chapter has no record of disciplinary misconduct and has not threatened anyone. Despite these facts, the student senate still refused recognition of the group in a 17-2 vote.

One of the students who voted for TPUSA recognition described himself as a “devil’s advocate” and rightly noted that “the ban on discrimination of viewpoints is intended to protect groups of all political and ideological horizons when they have dissenting or unpopular opinions”.

Drake violates his own commitment to student rights when he allows the student senate to discriminate against a group of students based on their point of view. by Drake Community, diversity and freedom of expression policy states that the school “carefully refrains from restricting the exchange of ideas or regulating the content of speech” and “cherishes[es] and defend[s] freedom of speech to the fullest extent protected by the First Amendment”.

Fires letter asks the Drake administration to honor these commitments by stepping in and granting recognition to TPUSA.

“What should scare student senators from Drake is not the opinions of other students, but the prospect of losing their rights,” Conza said. “If student government can unilaterally decide which opinions deserve recognition, no one’s expression is safe.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating and maintaining the individual rights of students and faculty members of American colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious freedom and the sanctity of conscience – the essential qualities of freedom.

CONTACT:

Katie Kortepeter, Media Relations Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; media@thefire.org

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