Student Government president vetos TPUSA legislation

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Student Government president vetos TPUSA legislation

Student Government President Allison Castillo and Vice President Keely Freund listen to students during the public forum April 8 at the Student Government meeting in the LBJ Ballroom.Photo by Jaden Edison

Student Government President Allison Castillo and Vice President Keely Freund listen to students during the public forum April 8 at the Student Government meeting in the LBJ Ballroom.

Photo by Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

Student Government President Allison Castillo and Vice President Keely Freund listen to students during the public forum April 8 at the Student Government meeting in the LBJ Ballroom.

Photo by Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

Jaden Edison

Student Government President Allison Castillo and Vice President Keely Freund listen to students during the public forum April 8 at the Student Government meeting in the LBJ Ballroom.

Photo by Jaden Edison

Samantha Guerrero

President Alison Castillo vetoed legislation April 11 to ban conservative student organization Turning Point USA from campus, ending a contentious battle of free speech.

The resolution was authored by Sens. Claudia Gasponi and Trevor Newman and was sponsored by Sen. Alexa Browning and Sen. Ex-Officio Jules Perrodin.

The Senate passed “The Faculty and Student Resolution Act of 2019” during its April 8 regular meeting after a heated public comments section. The resolution proposed to ban Turning Point USA’s Texas State University chapter from campus, citing concerns over the safety of marginalized communities and the integrity of on-campus student elections.

The legislation states the barring of TPUSA is also rooted in an attempt to curb any future tampering in Student Government elections, which TPUSA has done across the country through the Campus Victory Project. Texas State has been listed as a “full victory” in the Campus Victory Project’s brochure, indicating a successfully influenced campaign.

University Star investigation uncovered Student Government members’ history with TPUSA. Former President Brooklyn Boreing was accused in fall 2018 of having received unreported donations from the conservative political action committee, resulting in her resignation a few weeks later. Student Government started a formal investigation but concluded with no corroborating evidence.

Following the Senate’s initial April 1 reading of the legislation, the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs issued a campus-wide statement via email April 4 affirming student organizations’ First Amendment rights and backing TPUSA’s stay on campus. Further, Dean of Students Margarita Arellano stated April 8 that the university will always uphold student’s First Amendment rights.

“In accordance with the First Amendment and university policy, recognized student organizations will not be barred from Texas State University campuses unless they are under university-imposed disciplinary sanctions,” the email stated. “I urge all students to be mindful of the First Amendment rights that each of you are guaranteed.”

The resolution was doomed before the Senate passed it, making it a largely symbolic act to curb on-campus harassment tied to partisanship ideals. Texas State’s student body isn’t the first to clash with TPUSA.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sent a letter of support April 11, published in this issue, that commends Texas State’s Senate for passing the resolution. In the letter, the university’s Student Government stated it’s campus had experienced harassment similar to what is named in Texas Sate’s resolution.

The Senate’s 9-8-4 vote to ban the organization from campus fumbled into confusion due to the accidental inclusion of abstentions to the total vote count. Robert’s Rules of Order, Student Government’s guiding document, states that abstentions are to be included in the total vote count, but Student Government’s Constitution differs, stating abstentions are not included. After correcting the vote count, the legislation banning Turning Point USA from campus was passed.

“Thank you to the authors of the legislation,” said Stormi Rodriguez, president of Turning Point USA’s Texas State chapter, at the April 8 meeting. “You have publicized the message of this organization more than I ever could.”

After the legislation was passed, it went to President Castillo’s desk for approval, upon which it would have been sent to administration. Castillo ordered a memorandum of veto April 11 in accordance with her authority as observed in Article V, Section 5, Sub-Section M of the Student Government’s Constitution.

“My decision is neither partisan nor ideological; rather, it is one that upholds the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” stated Castillo in the veto. “The call for the immediate removal and barring of TPUSA from Texas State will set an invalid precedence that when opposing opinions arise that the solution is to bar one from organizing, thus fundamentally violating the First Amendment.”

The veto has prevented the bill from moving on any further. According to Castillo, the amendment will not be passed any further has been dropped.

“There is no further action needed,” Castillo said. “Once I put the veto out, then there is nothing else to be done.” 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a non-profit focused on protecting First Amendment rights on college campuses, rated Texas State as one of the top 10 worst campuses for free speech in 2018. The group authored a statement condemning Student Government’s decision and clarifying the First Amendment rights of on-campus student organization.

Sawyer Click and Sonia Garcia contributed to this story.

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