ASWU votes in Brandon Tatum as a TPUSA visiting speaker

By Abbey Rodriguez | Staff Writer

ASWU offices in the HUB, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. | Caleb Flegel/The Whitworthian

The Associated Students of Whitworth University (ASWU) accepted Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) request for speaker Brandon Tatum in a 12 to 5 vote.  

The president of Whitworth’s TPUSA chapter, Mazie Castagnetta, ‘24, began the discussion by explaining that if approved, Tatum would speak about his life and the reasons behind being a black conservative American. His talk would explain his experience as a former police officer, college football player and self-made millionaire. The response from the chamber was varied. 

Student Addie Caccavo, ‘26,  brought up the content of Tatum’s 2018 video in which he explains that he will not use correct pronouns for queer and transgender people. Caccavo said that trans people on campus feel targeted and are not comfortable hosting speakers such as these on campus, which makes students feel unsafe. Judas Sylvester, ‘26, furthered Caccavo’s point by saying that trans people’s existence is not up for debate.  

Castagnetta responded to these frustrations by saying that LGBTQ+ rights and issues will not be discussed in Tatum’s story. She continued to say that she would shut down any questions or comments regarding LGBTQ+ topics that might come up in the Q&A section of the event. Castagnetta also expressed that she wants people to feel safe at TPUSA events just as she would want to feel safe at events on campus.  

Others opposed Caccavo and Sylvester’s request to deny Tatum the right to speak on campus. Speakers are not meant to be experts on “both sides,” said Amy Sandberg. If ASWU denies every speaker who does not cover both sides of the argument, there will be no one left to speak, said Sandberg.

Margaret Byle, ‘25, further argued for civil discourse by explaining that a college is a place where students learn what they believe. Having the opportunity to hear different opinions and voices gives students opportunities to find out who they are.  

Off-campus representative Davis Campbell, ‘24, said that his constituents are excited about the event. He encouraged people to be resilient, embrace empathy and put themselves in the shoes of a conservative. He explained that everyone is trying to find a sense of belonging, and allowing Tatum to speak is an important way to cultivate differences on campus.  

Castagnetta responded to these statements by explaining that she and other conservative Whitworth students feel ostracized on campus because of their beliefs and want there to be a place of discussion for other conservative students. Bringing in Tatum to speak was one way she felt this was obtainable.  

Todd Sandberg, assistant dean of Student Life Programs, said that he and Rhosetta Rhodes, vice president for Student Life, could look into providing a safe space on campus for those uncomfortable with the event while Tatum is speaking. What that would look like is not yet not specified.

International student senator Niraj Pandey concluded the discussion by saying that even though Tatum has said painful things in the past, it is important that Whitworth remains a “marketplace of ideas” that allows students to explore different voices and opinions.  

Ultimately, the vote passed 12 to 5 in favor of allowing Tatum to speak on campus. The event will take place on Nov. 30. For more information regarding the event, please reach out to Castagnetta at

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