Santa Clara University to add Turning Point chapter, upsetting some students

SAN JOSE (KTVU) -- A Santa Clara University school administrator overturned a recent vote by the school's student Senate, paving the way for a conservative group to establish a campus chapter.

The move has stirred anger and frustration at the school among many students who say the administrator's move will open the door for the group to bring alt-right speakers to the campus.

But senior Caleb Alleva said he founded the chapter of Turning Point on the Jesuit college campus because it "focused on fiscal policies and things of that nature."

"I figured it was a great way to talk to students and get them involved in a political discussion," Alleva said.

However, some students and faculty members expressed concerns about adding Turning Point to the list of recognized student organizations.

"I personally do not agree with what they stand for," said SCU senior Tatiana Ray.

Student senators with the school's Associated Student Government voted last month to block registration by Turning Point.

Neil Data, chairman of the SCU student Senate, said the group's links to conservative speakers, like controversial alt-right writer Milo Yiannopoulos, raised concern among some SCU students.

A planned speech by Yiannopoulos in February prompted massive demonstrations on the campus of U.C. Berkeley and led to some arrests before police scrapped the event moments before his campus address.

"The alt-right ideals that the club is associated with were making students feel unsafe on campus," said SCU student senator Samantha Perez. "And I did not feel that those feelings needed to be invalidated in any way."

In an interview via Skype, a Turning Point official said misinformation and fear -- not facts -- have led to the frenzy on SCU's campus.

"It's like they didn't like us because we're conservative and then had to make up reasons to deny us, which I think is very unfortunate for free speech" said Matt Lamb, the group's director of campus integrity.

The school's vice provost overturned the senate's vote rejecting Turning Point, the first time in recent memory such a reversal has occurred.

Vice Provost Jeanne Rosenberger acknowledges "tension" on campus over the request but told students in a letter that, "Santa Clara University's commitment to free speech, freedom of association, and the free exchange of ideas for the purpose of developing knowledge and pursing truth is a cornerstone of our community."

Some students agreed with the administrator's move.

"I think it's important that we grant a platform for everyone for free speech," said SCU sophomore Catherine Newcomb.

The decision by the vice provost is final.

She wrote a letter to the school's faculty, saying SCU would become less of a university if it became intellectually intolerant, excluding people or groups who fundamentally disagreed with the majority.

The move means the local Turning Point chapter can set up an information table at the student center as early as this week.

By KTVU reporter Jesse Gary.