TU Turning Point sponsor will remain despite saying he would quit if racism and homophobia were discovered

By: Caitlyn Freeman, Jake Shindel and Matt Hubbard

Towson University’s embattled Turning Point USA chapter will remain affiliated with the college after its adviser, rhetoric professor Richard Vatz, refused to step down from his role amid revelations that members of the activist group Conservatives allegedly made racist and homophonic remarks.

This is despite Vatz saying in an email Wednesday that he would resign as a Turning Point councilor if he finds evidence of racism or homophobia in the chapter.

The Towerlight asked Vatz to comment on Wednesday whether he would stay on as a chapter advisor after GroupMe messages from Turning Point members leaked circulating on campus on Tuesday.

The posts showed members of the group using homophobic language and admitting to using racial slurs.

Vatz said in an email Saturday afternoon that he would stay on as an adviser because Turning Point students expressed remorse for the posts.

After The Towerlight provided Vatz with a second batch of leaked posts showing more in-depth examples of homophobic and racist members, he said in another email on Saturday night that he would continue in his role as patron.

“Turning Point knows their adviser was genuinely appalled and indeed considers them on probation,” Vatz said in an email Saturday night. “If I was a bettor (and I’m not), I’d bet heavily that their rhetorical immaturity and irresponsibility will never be repeated. I believe in redemption for those who seriously seek it, especially for non-capital crimes committed by young people.

TU requires on-campus groups to have a sponsor. Without one, a group cannot be recognized as an official on-campus organization, removing opportunities for potential funding.

Vatz said he regularly sponsors conservative groups because they struggle to find allies on a predominantly liberal campus.

He was previously the patron of a student group called Youth for Western Civilization, which sparked controversy by chalking “white pride” on campus sidewalks in 2012. This led to Vatz stepping down as a sponsor of the faculty of the organization, and the group dissolved according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After the group disbanded, its leader, former TU student Matthew Heimbach, established the White Student Union, USA Today reported. Heimbach went on to found the Traditionalist Labor Party, a white nationalist organization, according to the SPLC.

Vatz in his email singled out Youth for Western Civilization from the Towson Chapter of Turning Point, which was founded in 2016 and aims to advocate for limited government and promote free speech, according to their Involved webpage. @YOU.

“[YWC] were the organization that I will not be sponsoring,” Vatz said. “They were racist, ugly and all the things I don’t like.”

The Turning Point Chapter of TU is part of a national organization based in Arizona.

Right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk started Turning Point USA in 2012, according to his website. The national branch of Turning Point seeks to spread conservative values ​​on high school and college campuses, the website says.

Additional messages

Additional posts among Towson University Turning Point members were provided to The Towerlight by the TU Chapter of the Young Democratic Socialist of America. They show the members showing bigotry towards marginalized groups, including black people and LGBTQ people.

A former member of the TU Turning Point group authenticated the messages.

A thread in the messages, posted on Thursday, shows a member of the group comparing abortion to slavery.

“I would also say human rights; it’s like saying that slavery should have been practiced in every state so that the south could decide to keep it if they wanted to. Degrading humans because their black [sic] is the same as degrading humans because they are in the womb and less developed. It should be illegal everywhere.

The chat members were also discussing the n-word.

“I’m not saying that one, because that word has a very bad meaning, because in its gots so politically polarized, I don’t even go there as a white person,” one member wrote.

“True, but white people made that word up,” replied another.

“Yes exactly”

“I mean black people call themselves that all the time but when a white person uses it they get offended like it’s just a word,” the second member wrote.

“Quite honestly, if white people can’t say it, no one should say it, kinda weird people tell their friends.”

Additionally, a member of the chapter’s leadership was seen discussing the Monkeypox virus.

“We should also impose a mandatory one-month quarantine for ALL GAY, BISEXUAL and TRANSGENDER PEOPLE from June 1, for their own safety,” they told the group. “Furthermore, all sex outside marriage should be prohibited in order to curb the spread of the virus.”

Several threads show the use of homophobic slurs.

“I love the f–word it’s so funny idc if it’s offensive it makes me laugh,” one member wrote in the chat.

Another member of the group’s management said the use of LGBTQ characters in children’s television programs is indoctrination.

“Showing LGBTQ material to children,” they wrote. “This is all propaganda, for trans kids.”

The university’s response

TU students expressed outrage after the messages began circulating around campus on Tuesday. Several students demanded quick action from university officials.

Officials held a listening session on Friday to address students’ concerns. The Office of Student Affairs and the Student Government Association sponsored the event, which was attended by approximately 50 students.

They focused on the university not acting in response to the messages.

Towson officials cited First Amendment concerns in refusing to punish students for the messages.

“Cultural, homophobic and racist assholes exist on our campus,” Patricia Bradley, TU’s vice president for inclusion and institutional equity, told attendees Friday. “And guess what, these bigoted, racist, homophobic assholes have constitutional protections. They have constitutional protections. Do we like that they are here? Do we like that they said the vilest and most disgusting things ever? No, we don’t. Would we say, ‘Let’s get off our campus?’ ‘Not to YOU?’ Absolutely. But there are restrictions. »

Although some terms may be inflammatory, they are still protected by the First Amendment, in accordance with TU’s policy on reporting hate crimes and incidents of bias.

“As a public institution, the University must consider free speech and academic freedom when evaluating each alleged incident of bias,” the policy states. “While an expression of an idea or point of view may be hateful, offensive or inflammatory, it may not be an actionable bias incident. “

Essentially, the speech of student groups is protected unless they threaten to harm other students or violate a separate university policy.

SGA Treasurer Mayra Corea told event attendees on Friday that the SGA cannot take action against the chapter unless it violates the organization’s financial policy.

Although he has already received money from the SGA, he has not yet done so for this semester because he does not meet the current requirements. These include attending specific SGA events and filling out forms.

Turning Point’s response

TU Turning Point has yet to publicly respond to the leaked messages.

A participant in the posts, who used homophobic slurs, said in an interview that he felt compelled to do so in order to fit in with the group. The individual requested anonymity for fear of reprisals from members of the group.

A participant in the posts, who was seen in the chat using homophobic slurs, said he felt compelled to do so in order to fit in with the group.

“I wasn’t acting like me,” said the participant, who left the group before the messages leaked. “I was starting to say things or do things out of the ordinary, which weren’t myself at all, for this cult, which I call it.

Vatz said the group assured him that several of the members responsible for the messages were no longer with the group. Towerlight could not verify this claim.

“Could they be cheating on me?” Vatz said. “Yes, and if I find out that they go back on their word, I will immediately step down from their role as adviser. I can be cheated, but not twice.

Vatz said he spoke with junior Tim Yalinkilincer, the chapter’s spokesman, who assured him the group would not tolerate racism and homophobia. Yalinkilincer did not respond to multiple phone calls, emails and voicemails seeking comment.

“I sincerely apologize, on my behalf and on behalf of the rest of the club,” Yalinkilincer said in his email to Vatz. “Freedom of expression will be respected; however, the madness that is distorting TPUSA, its members and conservatism as a whole will NOT happen again.

Editor’s note: The Towerlight has redacted chapter member names and images in screenshots, as it was unable to reach every student via post on Sunday.

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