A conservative group at the University of Wyoming was recently barred from requesting student government funding until 2019 after hosting conservative pundit Dennis Prager.
The school’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter brought Prager to campus for a November 9 discussion on why “socialism makes people selfish,” drawing a crowd of 600 people.
On November 28, the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming (ASUW) announced the financial sanctions against the club, ruling that it had violated three statutes of the ASUW Finance Policy.
ASUW charged the group with failing to mark all promotional materials for the Prager event with the ASUW logo, neglecting to “distribute tickets at a campus based venue for students,” and declining to “utilize digital scanners for student IDs, which would have enabled them to prioritize the attendance of the ASUW fee-paying student population,” according to a November 28 ASUW press release obtained by Campus Reform.
Additionally, The Branding Iron, the university’s student newspaper, reported that TPUSA had violated an additional policy by offering food that was not authorized by “UW Risk Management,” though Jessica Leach, president of the conservative group, told Campus Reform that the accusation is unfounded.
Leach also pointed out that while some posters hung up around campus did not contain the ASUW logo, it was only “because they kept getting torn down,” necessitating hurried replacement.
“The reasons for the suspension of funds are not legitimate, and we are in the process of appealing the suspension through the student gov judicial council,” she added. “We are essentially barred from student fee money, which all of our 40 members pay every semester.”
According to the school’s website, student fees for the current school year are $674 for both in-state and out-of-state undergraduate students.
While TPUSA remains a registered student organization, and can continue to conduct meetings and host events on campus, Leach argued that the loss of funds effectively prevents the group from holding any major events.
“I was surprised and upset to see that our event essentially warranted this chilling effect,” she remarked. “It was successful, and the student government, populated mostly by leftist students, took action against our ability to hold events like this in the future.”
The school’s College Republicans (CRs) agreed that “the sanctions against TPUSA are unfair and set a worrying precedent and conversation on campus.”
“As CRs said in our statement before Prager came to speak, we’re primarily concerned that the people in charge of our student fees see even mainstream conservative opinions as hate speech,” CRs Vice President Linnea Lueken told Campus Reform.
One student offered remarks that seemed to substantiate that assessment, telling The Branding Iron that “somebody could have done so much good with $10,000,” and calling it “a shame to see students and student fees get used to promote Prager who will only profit on our backs.”
Since the suspension of funds won’t be lifted until January 1, 2019, as confirmed by the ASUW press release, TPUSA has launched a GoFundMe to raise money for its events in the interim.
“[Six hundred] people attended the event in person and 75,000 tuned in to PragerU’s livestream, resulting in PragerU’s largest livestream audience in history,” the fundraising page states. “A donation to this GoFundMe will allow the Turning Point chapter at the University of Wyoming to host future successful, educational events in Laramie despite the leftist push back on campus.”
Prager himself later shared the GoFundMe, asking his followers to “pitch-in together to support them.”
Notably, ASUW said in its press release that TPUSA has already received “all possible funding from the ASUW Student Government for the Fiscal Year 2018,” and that “previously-allocated funds will not be retroactively taken from the organization.”
An ASUW advisor told Campus Reform that FY2018 ends on June 30, confirming that TPUSA will only be barred from requesting funds for the fall 2018 semester.
According to ASUW Senate meeting minutes, there has not been talk of suspending funding for any other Registered Student Organizations this academic year.