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TPUSA sues SUNY Cortland for club denial
TPUSA student leaders at SUNY Cortland, Megan Rothmund and Gabriella Delorenzo

President to TPUSA students, ‘We silence voices all the time in this country’: lawsuit

Two students are suing the State University of New York Cortland for refusing to recognize their Turning Point USA chapter as an official student organization.

Students Megan Rothmund (pictured left) and Gabriella Delorenzo (pictured right) told The College Fix this week that the public university violated their free speech rights, and they are fighting back.

“Conservatives have the same right to speak as any of their peers without fear of being silenced. Everyone should be free to speak without fear of their speech being shut down, especially on a public university campus,” Delorenzo told The Fix in an email Tuesday.

Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Delorenzo and Rothmund in the case, filed last week in federal court against university President Erik Bitterbaum, philosophy Professor Nikolay Karkov, and the student government association.

Rothmund told The Fix that SUNY Cortland leaders repeatedly discriminated against them because of their conservative views when they sought official recognition of their TPUSA chapter during the fall semester.

“Universities should encourage free speech, not shut it down. The university discriminated against TPUSA by not allowing our group to function on campus because it did not agree with our group’s views,” Rothmund told The Fix.

SUNY Cortland is reviewing the lawsuit, communications director Frederic Pierce told The Fix in a Feb. 23 email.

“SUNY Cortland has been, and will remain, committed to inclusivity, diversity of perspectives, mutual respect and the free exchange of ideas. We were made aware of the lawsuit yesterday and are reviewing the allegations,” Pierce said.

Rothmund and Delorenzo started the chapter in the fall of 2023 “to bring together students who value freedom, free markets, and limited government,” according to a statement by their lawyers.

Although Rothmund and Delorenzo followed all the steps to become a recognized student organization, their request was denied by the student government at a Nov. 28 meeting, according to the lawsuit.

Prior to the vote, a “large number of students” and Professor Karkov spent nearly two hours criticizing the conservative students and Turning Point USA, the lawsuit alleges.

At various points during the question period of the meeting, Karkov described TPUSA as racist and several students heckled Delorenzo and Rothmund, telling them to “go home,” the lawsuit claims.

The meeting concluded with the student government refusing to recognize the TPUSA chapter, according to the case.

A few days later, Delorenzo and Rothmund met with university administrators, including President Bitterbaum, hoping to appeal the decision, the case states.

However, Bitterbaum told the students that they could not appeal the student government’s decision, and he discouraged them from re-applying for recognition, the lawsuit alleges.

Bitterbaum also told them: “We silence voices all the time in this country. That’s the tragedy and also the greatness of democracy,” the lawsuit claims.

The university’s vague criteria for club approval is also problematic, according to the lawsuit.

Its nonrecognition policy “imposes no criteria guiding the Student Government’s discretion. So Defendants Student Government and Bitterbaum can withhold recognized student organization status for any reason or no reason at all,” according to the lawsuit.

ADF Legal Counsel Mathew Hoffmann said in an ADF new release that public universities are not allowed to “pick and choose” which students’ opinions may be voiced freely on campus.

“Colleges are meant to be marketplaces of ideas where students learn to respect and defend diverse beliefs held throughout the country, but unfortunately, many college officials are encouraging students to silence opposing views,” Hoffman said.

TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet said the situation raises serious concerns about the SUNY Cortland’s commitment to free speech and diversity of thought.

“Turning Point USA is deeply concerned about the open hostility our students, Gabriella Delorenzo and Megan Rothmund, were subjected to during the SUNY Cortland’s Student Senate hearing,” Kolvet said in the news release.

MORE: Progressives’ attempt at Rutgers to deplatform YAL and TPUSA fails

IMAGE: Megan Rothmund and Gabriella Delorenzo

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Scott Giebel is a graduate assistant for sports information at Wheeling University where he is pursuing an MBA. He previously received his bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism at Millersville University. While there he wrote for the Athletic Communications Department as well as for 717 Sports Media.