Two student groups clash at K-State, spark conversation about free speech

Published: Apr. 4, 2019 at 10:49 PM CDT
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Two student organizations clashed on the front steps of Kansas State University's student union Thursday afternoon.

One group demonstrated against hate speech targeting race and sexual orientation, but it sparked a counter-discussion about tolerance for ideas on a range of issues.

"I'm sure that they'll probably call us some names and say that we're pushing a hateful rhetoric," Jaden McNeil, president of K-State's TPUSA chapter, said.

Austen Fletcher was brought to K-State to speak at the TPUSA meeting, the spark for the protest.

He echoed McNeil, "They're gonna be saying that we're full of hate and we're bigots and we're alt-right ... which isn't true, I have never spouted anything like that, I don't support anyone who does."

But there are two sides to every story.

"It's a problem with the organization and the rhetoric," Ian Boyd, VP of K-State's young democrats, said.

"They've been associated with hateful rhetoric, hate organizations in the past."

Thursday afternoon Kansas State young democrats and students from SAGA shared their stories in protest of Turning Point USA.

McNeil explained what TPUSA is all about.

"Basically just a student organization that works to educate students on those three things. Free market, small government and fiscal responsibility," he said.

The group has only been on campus for roughly a year. They've been planning Thursday's event - which brought in speakers to discuss the first amendment - for months.

"We're here to talk about the first amendment. How it applies to everyone and how it's an important tool when it comes to bridging the gap in this country," Fletcher said.

McNeil and Fletcher agree that hate speech has no place on campus.

"No, not at all," McNeil said.

"End goal is to unite people and bring them together with free speech," Fletcher said.

Still, protesters say the organization's national leaders have crossed the line - and have said hurtful and bigoted things in the past.

"I fundamentally believe that if you're affiliated with a national organization that allows its leadership to say things like that, then you are allowing that to happen, you're supporting it," Boyd said.

Boyd wants the group to be removed from K-State.

"Yes, and once again there are plenty of ways that people from conservative backgrounds can get involved, this (organization) just does not belong on campus," he said.

McNeil wishes the two groups could come to an understanding.

"Instead of having a protest I wish they could come and discuss our differences because we have a lot more in common then they believe," he said.