FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, denied the foundation of a Turning Point USA chapter, according to an email from the dean of students, because Turning Point USA’s messaging on biological sex does “not align” with the Catholic college’s mission.
Claire Bettag, a sophomore student from Chicago, pushed back against Saint Mary’s denial of the club over the course of several months, according to emails reviewed by The Daily Signal. But the college’s dean of students, Gloria Jenkins, ultimately told Bettag that Turning Point USA’s messaging on transgender issues does not align with Saint Mary’s mission.
“I’m not sure why they call themselves a Catholic university if their values don’t align with the Catholic Church,” Bettag said in a Friday phone interview.
“Turning Point is obviously a conservative-based club,” she added. “When they say that Turning Point’s morals don’t align with their values, I think that just really meant that Turning Point’s politics don’t align with their politics.”
Turning Point USA is a conservative group that works “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government,” according to its website.
The Daily Signal repeatedly reached out to Saint Mary’s College and Jenkins about this email and about Saint Mary’s stances on biological sex. The college did not respond to requests for comment.
Bettag described the experience as “discouraging,” noting that the college has a a wide swath of left-leaning clubs, including College Democrats, Feminists United, and the Sexuality and Gender Equity Club. There is no College Republicans club at Saint Mary’s, she said: “They told me I could be recognized as a Republican club, but not under TPUSA’s name.”
In one email reviewed by The Daily Signal, Liz Baumann, director of student involvement and advocacy, claimed that because Saint Mary’s is a “Catholic institution of higher learning,” the school has an obligation to be “diverse, inclusive, and equitable, and insists that its approved student-led clubs be the same.”
And in a Feb. 3 email to Bettag, Jenkins pushed back against the idea that denying the Turning Point USA club was discriminatory.
“After carefully looking at the entirety of TPUSA and discerning if their strategies and tactics could have a negative impact on the College, we decided we could not formally underwrite any programming that uses their name,” she wrote in the email. “You, and TPUSA, have access to the same information and articles that we do. Even still, we will share a handful of examples in which the style and content of Turning Point USA’s messaging around LGBTQ+ issues do not align with the mission and values of Saint Mary’s.”
Jenkins cited Turning Point USA’s live feed pages to “Transgender Issues and other LGBTQ+ issues” as well as the organization’s “Real Men Aren’t Women” merchandise, which she called “anti-trans.” She also pointed to the Turning Point USA’s Second Amendment merchandise featuring the word “COEXIST” spelled out in weapons.
“These, along with their activism kits are the antithesis of the expectation we have for our students when it comes to civil discourse on our campus,” she said.
Jenkins also specifically cited Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk’s comments on traditional gender roles and transgenderism.
“And while we have focused on LGBTQ+ messaging, there are other articles focusing on race and partisan politics that also point to the inconsistencies between stated claims and values of the organization and its founder and how they actually present themselves in reality,” she added.
“TPUSA’s website states their campus chapters and activism hubs are designed to stoke ‘culture wars.’ Though we understand the importance to you of this recognized club, we cannot endorse this organization or its methodology.”
Though Saint Mary’s rejected the Turning Point USA chapter, Jenkins made a point of highlighting that the school believes in civil discourse.
“In fact,” wrote Jenkins, “we have coursework and other programming built entirely around becoming better listeners, more careful reasoners, and engaged citizens in democracy. President [Katie] Conboy wrote in the College’s 10-year strategic plan that civil discourse will become a hallmark of a Saint Mary’s education so that we may ‘build leaders equipped with the skills and confidence to have difficult conversations with people who disagree with them.’”
Saint Mary’s SAGE club is advertised on the college’s website with the description, “SAGE serves the Saint Mary’s community as a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies. We actively pursue the goal of uniting LGBTQ+ students and allies together.”
“We work to achieve this goal through events that foster dialogue, discussion, and friendship making,” the club description continues. “Additionally, SAGE actively works to educate and inform students about the LGBTQ+ community and about related topics such as LGBTQ+ history, sexuality awareness, gender, race and ethnicity, and mental health.”
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