Turning Point’s Tulane chapter rightfully approved

Turning Point USA, a national conservative activist organization, received approval to form a Tulane chapter at the Undergraduate Student Government meeting on Tuesday. Ultimately, this affirmation of free speech was the correct decision while highlighting a drastic need for the university to address hate speech more seriously.

Many Tulane students, especially those that are more progressive, view this decision as a failure of the administration and student government to ensure the safety of their students. Freedom of speech, however, must never be limited. The only way to combat ideas that are viewed as outrageous is to discuss and defeat them through logic.

There is a crucial distinction between hate speech and free speech. Aside from national and state laws, the Tulane University Code of Student Conduct takes a clear stance on this issue: “The University encourages the free exchange of ideas and opinions, but insists that the free expression of views must be made with respect for the human dignity and freedom of others.”

Despite several instances of racist and discriminatory behavior from Turning Point chapters at other universities, Tulane’s branch has not expressed hateful speech. The group claims to be focused on freedom, limited government and fiscal matters and those claims should be respected. It is unfair to assume that the members of a conservative organization at Tulane will demonstrate the same white supremacist beliefs as other members of this organization at other universities.

An organization like Students for Justice in Palestine provides a relevant analogy. Though members of SJP at other universities have committed violent acts against Jewish people and brought explicitly anti-Semitic speakers to campus, if someone wanted to start a Tulane branch, they must be allowed to express their views. Some Jewish students, knowing the organization’s capacity for anti-Semitism across the country, might feel unsafe with the group’s presence on campus. But unless SJP were to cross that line, the group should be allowed to exist at Tulane.

Similar logic can be applied to anti-abortion rights groups that peacefully protest, even though it might feel like an attack to individuals who have had abortions. Unless the protesters are harming others, they must be allowed to voice their concerns.

This being said, the debate raises critical points about how we treat marginalized students on campus. The administration must treat hate speech with the utmost seriousness. If it doesn’t, these concerns over safety can never be assuaged.

An additional measure is creating concrete safe spaces on campus for anyone who needs to escape hurtful words and enjoy the unity of other marginalized individuals, to protect students’ feelings — but without limiting intellectual freedom. The expansion of places like the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the creation of a Muslim prayer space are important steps toward ensuring students have access to safe spaces.

Furthermore, students must join the fight against discrimination and work together to end a hostile on-campus climate toward marginalized groups. If we band together as a student body to monitor and hold organizations accountable, we are engaging in proactive and not reactive protection.

This issue may sting for students on campus who feel attacked by the expression of certain views and ideologies. Progress cannot be made in this country, or anywhere for that matter, until we create open forums to hear the opinions of others while continuing to draw an unwavering line between what is hard to hear and what is hateful to hear.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Josh is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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