What is Turning Point USA?

Recently on the Maryville College campus, a group of students have been aiming to open a branch of the conservative nonprofit organization known as Turning Point USA.

 Turning Point USA, typically shortened to TPUSA, has the stated purpose to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom,” according to their public website. TPUSA also claims to uphold and push the following ideas: “freedom, free markets, and limited government.”

With existing institution of the MC Republicans, many students are concerned and confused about TPUSA’s presence on the campus. The organization aims to provide a “powerful conservative grassroots network” to college campuses across America and is now expanding into the United Kingdom with Turning Point UK. At its core, Turning Point is an activism network.

Founded by Charlie Kirk in 2012 and financially backed by Republican donor, Foster Feiss, TPUSA has been a vocal proponent of the NRA, the Trump Administration, and a vocal opponent of organizations such as Black Lives Matter. TPUSA also touts a Professor Watchlist in addition to its website which keeps records of college professors that, according to TPUSA, “discriminate against conservative students and advance left-wing propaganda.”

Turning Point USA tends to find itself embroiled in political controversy as well. According to the Anti-Defamation League and the New Yorker, several members of TPUSA, both present and former, have been found to have made racist, homophobic, and otherwise hostile comments both on social media platforms like Twitter and within leaked private messages to their colleagues. 

One such instance involves Riley Grisar, former president of the University of Nevada and Las Vegas’ chapter of TPUSA. Grisar was videoed chanting “white power” and racial slurs in May of this year and was subsequently removed from his position. 

The Anti-Defamation League classifies Turning Point as an “alt-lite” organization—meaning it could be a precursor to genuine alt-right institutions such as the Proud Boys, a violent right-wing extremist group based in Portland, Ore. who TPUSA has had been affiliated with in the past.

Fellow conservative organization, Young America’s Foundation, has also had trouble with Turning Point during 2019. A memo from YAF leaked to the public earlier this year warning conservative students not to engage with TPUSA. This reaction was in reference to students asking if YAF and TPUSA should work together on campuses where both exist. 

The memo states, “the long-term damage TPUSA could inflict on conservative students and on the conservative movement can no longer be ignored.” It goes on to accuse TPUSA of inflating their numbers of attendees at their campus events around the country with “racists and Nazi sympathizers.”

Thanks to these entanglements with controversy, many college campuses have denied recognition to Turning Point to distance themselves from the organization’s alt-right reputation. These colleges include Drake University, Hagerstown Community College, Wartburg College, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Founder, Charlie Kirk, has denied allegations of racism and alt-right ties within TPUSA as “baseless” and “absurd.” Kirk has also taken action to remove TPUSA members who have made offensive comments in the past

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