By Bar Rozenhaimer | Staff Writer
On Oct. 2, Whitworth University’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter held a free speech event just outside of the Hixson Union Building (HUB).
They had a table and an inflatable ball where students wrote down their thoughts and engaged in open discourse. This continued for some time until some students began to write down vulgarities. At that point, two faculty members, one of them being TPUSA’s advisor, told the students to remove the free speech ball.
The purpose of the event was to “get a conversation started […]. To show students that they have first amendment rights and that [they’re] able to say whatever [they] want to say without being punished,” said Mazie Castagnetta, president of TPUSA.
The expectation was that “it was just gonna be a good way to find club members and be and show that we’re a pro-America club,” said Castagnetta.
It was the club’s wishes that people would be able to “express their rights as Americans”, said Castagnetta. “It was going to be […] a fun way for people to come to our table [and] interact with us.”
Castagnetta initially felt that the event went well, and that people of all political stripes were represented. There were people “talking about God, […] about how we should be sexually liberated, […] about trans and women’s sports,” said Castagnetta.
Then people began using offensive language and writing vulgarities. Statements were made about TPUSA as well, with some calling TPUSA fascists, among other things, said Castagnetta.
Campus Reform reported that at this event, Leadership Institute Field Representative Colby Bepple used a body camera to record parts of the event without informing people they were being recorded. The purpose of the recording was to “just show […] what [TPUSA goes] through every day, and what we deal with on campus,” said Castagnetta.
Because Washington is a two-party consent state, recording someone without their permission is illegal.
Due to the events surrounding the free speech ball, Whitworth University put this club on probation, said Castagnetta.
Between the “controversial” media coverage TPUSA receives, the “controversy” over last year’s TPUSA speaker and this recent probation, the TPUSA club isn’t “being treated fairly,” said Castagnetta.
It is not the purpose of the club to “aggravate people [or] to start fights with people,” and TPUSA is “going to jump through the hoops [it] needs to jump through […] to stay a club on campus,” said Castagnetta.