Drake University student senator Olivia O’Hea and student body president Kevin Maisto openly targeted a Turning Point USA chapter on Thursday, April 21st at a student senate meeting, claiming the student group’s pro-gun and other conservative views are “harmful” and pushing for the club to be voted down and denied official status.
The minutes of the meeting provide more insight. According to the minutes, several members were in support of the club. Senator Jon Lueth said the group would be good to represent conservative views on campus. Auditor Caleb Potratz supported approval because it would help to represent all student beliefs. The Vice President, Zachary Blevin, said that he supported the club because it had a better vision than College Republicans, and said he was willing to put aside his personal political beliefs (Blevin is a member of College Democrats at Drake) to support the club.
Student Senator Linley Sanders said Turning Point was “condescending” and another senator, Kevin Kane, said Turning Point had a “hateful record” and talked about social issues. Sanders filled out a “Get Involved Form” on Turning Point’s website, ostensibly to try to find something to use against the club, although she told a Turning Point employee she “was reaching out because I was curious about the specific establishment of Turning Point chapters on campuses, as it’s an area I was unfamiliar with.” She took issue at the meeting Turning Point’s pro-gun views as well. However, in her e-mail, she said “I’ve since connected with a few local Turning Point organizers, and they were wonderful about answering questions. I’m a graduating senior, so I will leave the development and establishment of the organization in their hands — they seem to be a very motivated and well-spoken group.”
Sanders did not answer multiple phone calls and had an inactive voicemail account.
O’Hea used her position as student senator to openly criticize the conservative student club. Most shockingly, O’Hea accused the student group of bias and lying because Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA’s CEO and founder, tweeted pro-life views from his personal Twitter account. O’Hea read some of Kirk’s tweets during the student government meeting, with the intention to prevent the student chapter from forming.
O’Hea is openly pro-choice, at one point adding a pro-Planned Parenthood filter to a Facebook picture, which also praised Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards.
“Always proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and their commitment to women’s health. Their services impact 1 in 5 women in the United States, from cancer screenings, to birth control distribution, to consensual and legal tissue donation. It’s time to end smear campaigns that shame women for exercising autonomy over their bodies. #StandWithPP” she wrote last September.
During the meeting, O’Hea also took issue with the student club’s website selling a t-shirt that says, “I Survived College Without Becoming a Liberal”, according to reports by Turning Point USA Iowa Field Coordinator Christina Herrin, and the student activists involved.
Maisto, the student body president and a Hillary Clinton delegate in the Iowa caucuses, joined in on the attacks claiming that some students would be “offended” by some of the organization’s views, and could be “harmed”. Even though some people may agree with Turning Point, Maisto noted others could be “harmed”.
Both Maisto and O’Hea were featured in a video before the Iowa caucuses about being students for Hillary Clinton.
The student senators involved are violating at least three principles set forth by the student senate “Vision Statement“: “In an effort to create meaningful and relevant change at Drake University, we, as student advocates and allies, strive to build a campus and a Student Senate that is more: “Personally, politically, and culturally engaged, Transparent and responsive in its actions, Representative of all Drake University students.”
The student senators have quite clearly worked against a new club which engages students on political and cultural issues, have been less transparent than a brick wall on providing information on the denial, and have been unrepresentative of conservative students.
University media relations did not return requests for comment. An associate dean, Jerry Parker said in an e-mail he looked into the matter and concluded that the senators did not do anything wrong. In his e-mail response, Parker explained the process of how votes work, but completely ignored all questions about why the club was denied official status; “members of the Student Senate have the right to question presenters on their prospective organization, a motion, or a resolution that comes to the Student Senate. Although Student Senators may articulate support and/or disagreement towards a prospective student organization, motion or a resolution, it is the Student Senate that votes as a collective whole in deciding whether to vote something up or down (i.e., just because a few students might make arguments for or against a specific issue, the vote still rests in the Student Senate).”
Parker did not provide more information on denial, and delayed requests for a phone call until the following week, citing a busy schedule.
It should be noted that this was not the actions of a few random student senators, but rather the student body president and multiple high-ranking student senators.
Erin Griffin, president of Student Activities Board and a member of the executive team with Maisto, deferred questions to the university. Jared Freemon, chair of Student Affairs for the senate did not return a request for comment. Maisto did not answer requests by a student activist for more information on the denial.
Cross-posted from Hypeline.