By Isaac Price, Staff Writer
Whitworth students chartered a chapter of the national organization, Turning Point USA (TPUSA), in Nov 2022, bringing a new space for conservative students to connect and discuss issues. Grace Stiger ’23, a senior elementary education major, helped spearhead the Whitworth chapter and now serves as Whitworth TPUSA’s president.
“I want to help make college students that are libertarian, conservative or have no idea what to think about politics feel like they have a place in this club.” Stiger said. “I also want to work on it being more normalized to have discussions about things without the fear of getting canceled or losing friends,”
TPUSA is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization that values warrior spirits, grassroots humility and persistent innovation [with a mission] to train, identify, and educate students on important topics such as free markets, limited government and our rights as citizens,” said Joscelyn Bradbury, TPUSA’s regional representative for the Pacific Northwest.
According to club secretary Vanessa Flowers, ’23, the idea to charter TPUSA on Whitworth’s campus was borne out of similar beliefs, frustrations and goals among a few friends.
“We just felt like we weren’t really accepted, and we wanted to have a place where we can come together and form community. It’s just really important to us to build community and have conversations. On campus, it feels like that’s a very hard thing to do because of a difference of beliefs,” Flowers said.
When the students, who are now officers, first pitched TPUSA to ASWU, club coordinator Jamie Gassman saw the proposal as meeting an important need on campus.
“When we first heard about the club, we were pretty excited . . . We knew that there was a need for conservative clubs on campus, for people with that view to share their opinions and have a place to feel comfortable and safe,” Gassman said. “The club is hoping to be a safe, good place for conversations to happen. Usually, the members are conservative leaning, but the club does want to make sure the conversations can be open to anyone.”
Similar to the chartering process for Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), ASWU’s discussion on TPUSA prior to voting touched on the club’s connection to the national organization, which Gassman said has faced controversy in the past. In answer to this, Gassman was clear that though this connection exists, the Whitworth chapter will have autonomy and stay open for everyone.
“Our biggest concern was just making sure that the club was going to be a safe space on this campus and not going to be a place where any groups of people will feel like it won’t be safe for them, to either share their opinions, or feel that they will be targeted or mistreated because of the club,” Gassman said. “The club is not the national organization, even if they are affiliated with it and may share a name with them; . . . they’re their own entity.”
As TPUSA president, Stiger confirmed that the club has range outside the purview of the national organization and may differ on some viewpoints beyond basic support for America and the principles of limited government.
“There’s nothing really that we have to do that’s tied to the organization in itself. [We] can kind of do whatever [we] want with the club, [and] they just have resources and people to help support [us] and do whatever [our] goals are,” Stiger said.
Jamie Furr, a senior on the pre-law track, was involved in conversations with club leadership from the start and hopes to see the club foster free speech on campus.
“I’m passionate about free speech, in general.” Furr said “I think people should basically be able to say whatever they want, as long as it’s not hate speech; and that no political ideology, unless it’s blatantly hateful, should be suppressed,” Furr said. “People should feel comfortable to speak about their political ideology, whether that’s LGBTQ rights, or traditionally conservative things like talking about gun rights… I want to protect people’s right to talk about [things] all over the spectrum.”
From Jamie’s perspective, TPUSA’s mission is not to make more students hold a conversative ideology, but rather to provide the conservative-leaning students who exist at Whitworth with a comfortable space to meet and discuss politics.
“TPUSA, in general, is an organization that makes conservatives feel more comfortable. Even though I’m not that heavily conservative myself, one thing that is important to me is that my conservative friends feel comfortable,” Furr said.
In terms of club events, Stiger hopes that the club will host one agenda meeting and one fun meeting every month, in order to build community. She also hopes TPUSA will be able to bring speakers to campus.
“I think that that would be helpful to have an actual professional that works for some organization to talk about XYZ, instead of having me talk about it,” Stiger said.
As a club supporter, Furr hopes that next year the community-building efforts will begin early-on.
“I think next year it would be great if they held like a big barbecue event, or something at the very beginning of the year, in the first two weeks, and . . . had a big turnout, because that might prevent some . . . folks from feeling like, ‘I’m alone here,’ or ‘my voice is not anywhere near the majority, I feel scared,’” Furr said.
“I feel that it would benefit Whitworth as a whole, because I feel like even the folks on the more liberal side who totally disagree with conservatism . . . can still benefit from having more conservative voices on campus to help them sharpen their ideas,” Furr said. “I think it makes Whitworth a better place and by extension makes America a better place.”
Overall, Stiger is hopeful for the club’s future and the space it will provide on campus.
“I transferred as a sophomore, [and] this is something that I wish I had around when I first came to Whitworth.” Stiger said. “This school has been amazing to me, and has given me so much, but this was the one thing that was missing. I know a lot of students are in that same boat. I’m just excited to get the word out, get more people to meet each other and kind of just build a community.”
TPUSA is firm that anyone with differing views or an undecided political stance is equally welcome to participate.
Flowers said, “[To someone who’s opposed], your views and my views don’t have to align and that’s okay. We’re not trying to indoctrinate you. We’re just here to have a community in a space where we can feel like we can be ourselves, because otherwise it’s hard to have that feeling of connection.”
To learn more about Turning Point USA or get involved, contact Grace Stiger at email@example.com.