University has ignored letter for the past six weeks
A private college in West Virginia has yet to respond to a letter from the Southeastern Legal Foundation after university officials refused to approve a Turning Point USA chapter.
But that won’t stop the leaders of the unofficial student group from organizing students and pushing forward with starting the group, even after Bethany College officials denied the group’s application on the grounds it had associations with hate speech groups, according to the conservative legal group’s letter.
“The school has not responded yet [but] the students are going to move forward with their efforts to start a Turning Point chapter at Bethany College,” Kimberly Hermann, general counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, told The College Fix on a phone interview on April 21.
The college is a liberal arts school with connections to the Disciples of Christ, but does not appear to be an explicitly Christian school.
Hermann’s group is representing the students. The Foundation has sent several letters to university officials that asked the university to reverse its denial.
The chapter leader is Seth Burgdolt, according to a TPUSA spokesperson. Student activists had started the application process, which included the submission of a constitution and informing the college of their intent.
“However, upon receiving their request and constitution at step one, the College notified the students that their group would not be recognized,” according to a March 12 letter sent from the legal group to Gerald Stebbins, the vice president of student life. This means “the chapter cannot host meetings, recruit members, or table on campus,” according to the letter.
“The College advised the students not to gather signatures in support of their petition because their application would not move forward,” Hermann said, recounting the facts of the case to Stebbins.
“The College reasoned that TPUSA has been affiliated with hate speech groups, and that Bethany students may likewise engage in hate speech,” Hermann said in the letter. The group, according to Hermann, also cited TPUSA’s Professor Watchlist, which compiled instances of professors pushing leftism or discriminating against students.
The university has yet to respond to Hermann’s initial letter and a follow-up letter. The College Fix emailed Stebbins multiple times and asked about the criteria for the denial of the chapter.
Stebbins did not respond to those emails sent over the past several weeks as well as questions about what other groups have been denied by Bethany College officials and if the school would consider denying any other chapters of different organizations.
The Fix sent similar questions twice in the past month to Karen Hunt, a university spokesperson. Hunt also did not respond to requests for comment on the situation.
Legal foundation demands approval or acknowledgement school doesn’t support free speech
The Foundation asked the university to either approve the group or change its policy to say it does not support all speech.
“Surely the College understands the dangerous precedent it sets when an institution ignores its own laws,” Hermann wrote.
“As such, SLF requests that either (1) the College remove the language in its policies ensuring the freedom of expression and clarifies that it will only give a platform to certain views on campus,” the letter said.
Alternatively, “the College [should] permit the student and his peers to move forward with their organization, allowing open discourse to guide the student body in the pursuit of truth.”
IMAGE: Turning Point USA/Twitter