Featured photo: A flyer posted by Turning Point USA’s student organization on High Point University’s campus promoted an event planned for Wednesday at 7 p.m., but university officials say the event was not authorized and will not take place. (screenshot)
This story has been updated since its initial publication.
A red flyer made its rounds on social media, causing a stir wherever it was shared on Wednesday afternoon. The flyer, which was initially shared by the Turning Point USA organization at High Point University, promoted an event on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. in the Cottrell Building on campus. The event, titled “Unlearning Antiracism: Breaking Down Critical Race Theory,” was set to invite conservative activist Gabriel Nadales to give a talk. Nadales describes himself as a former Antifa member who now frequently collaborates with conservative groups like Turning Point USA and works for the Leadership Institute.
The flyer was shared on the Turning Point USA High Point’s Instagram account over the weekend, garnering 41 likes, with a caption that read, ” Looking forward to seeing y’all this Wednesday at 7PM in Cottrell (Bauer)!!! It’s going to be a great event.”
However when students found out about the alleged event on Tuesday, they took to social media to raise awareness and call for the university to cancel it.
On Wednesday afternoon, Allison Lightner, the media-relations manager for the university, responded to Triad City Beat’s questions about the event by stating that the “event was never approved by the university and will not happen.”
Lightner’s email went on to state that “the university has a required approval process in place for anyone who wants to use space on campus” and that because the Turning Point USA university group is “not chartered,” their request was not approved.
“HPU cares deeply about the entire campus community,” the email read. “As soon as a concern was brought to the attention of the university, multiple offices worked quickly to dispel rumors.”
Many students, particularly those who are Black and Brown have taken to social media to condemn the event, stating that it is racist and have organized a opposition protest for this evening.
In an Instagram Story, a member of the university’s Black Student Union stated that they were told by university administration that the event was not taking place, but that they were still planning on showing up to the building at 7 p.m. because they “do not have full faith that [the] organization will abide by campus rules.”
As of 3 p.m., the original post promoting the event was still up on the Turning Point USA university group’s Instagram page.
UPDATED (4 p.m.): After receiving pushback from students on campus, the university student group took down the event flyer from their Instagram and posted a statement on their page. The statement, which is shown below, states that the event has been canceled and noted that the event was “misconstrued and incorrectly interpreted.”
“We stand behind everyone and promote equality amongst all,” the post read. “Our organization focuses on fiscal responsibility, free markets, limited government and freedom of speech…. The poor verbiage of the graphic which included ‘Unlearning Antiracism’ was meant to describe that we would be breaking down critical race theory and how that ideology is fostering an environment around racism. Our speaker was here to explain how to defeat racism without utilizing critical race theory in our education system…”
Turning Point USA is a national organization led by Charlie Kirk that advocates for conservative values on school campuses across the country. In the past the organization has opposed critical race theory, the 1619 Project, mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccines.
Mikayla Smith, the president of the university’s Black Student Union and a senior told TCB that she learned about the event late on Tuesday.
After she and others posted about the event on their social media channels, including on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, she said they woke up to racist messages on the platform.
One post stated, “Cottrell 7pm for monkey lynchings” while another one wrote “I’m sorry if you are not part of the aryan race or adapt to it you don’t deserve to step foot on this campus.”
That sort of overt racism will not be tolerated on campus, Smith said.
“I am not letting anyone feel unwelcome on a campus where they pay $70,000 a year,” she said.
And while the racism is unnerving, Smith said that it’s been a problem since she’s been on campus. Last year, she said students organized a Black Lives Matter protest after graffiti was found in the campus theater that read, “I hate [n-words].”
“This has been here since 1924 when the campus opened,” Smith said.
And even though the administration said that the event was not taking place because the organization was not chartered, Smith said she wants the university to do more to keep their students safe.
“They should be not condemning these things because they are not chartered but because they are wrong,” she said. “I’m hoping that the university finally deals with the sick, racist culture that they have provided on this campus. The first step to change is acknowledgement. They like to talk about diversity and inclusion here but, we don’t have any of that.”
UPDATED (Nov. 5, 11 a.m.): On Thursday, HPU President Nido Qubein sent out an email, attached below, to the student body expressing his “sadness” about the situation.
“After a challenging day yesterday, I woke up with our campus community on my mind and sadness in my heart,” the email reads. “I feel so sad that our students of color had concerns yesterday that caused them pain.”
In the email, Qubein states that “racism and discrimination in every form will not be tolerated at HPU,” but he did not state what, if any, consequences the Turning Point group faced. He also promoted the new arena that opened this week in the same message.
Smith, who received the email like everyone else, expressed disappointment with Qubein’s response.
“This man promoted the new arena and basketball game during an email about racist threats from students on campus,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that speaks for itself.”
When asked if she knew if the student group was facing any consequences for their actions, she said, “As of now, we haven’t heard anything about consequences and probably won’t.”
Initially launched in 2013, the social media app rose to popularity amongst teens and young adults but soon faced backlash for its anonymous location-based platform which was used heavily for cyberbullying and racist posts. In 2017, the app shut down. Then, this past summer, the app made a comeback.
And in the past week since the controversy around the TPU event, students have been subjected to increasingly racist anonymous posts on the app.
On Nov. 5, one user posted, “Slave auction @7?” while another one stated, “fuck black people in particular.”
In the months prior to the app’s shutdown, a number of school districts and college campuses around the country banned the use of the app but HPU’s spokesperson stated that at this point, the app “isn’t being banned” because doing so would be “complex and complicated.” Lightner referenced an article from 2017 that notes that banning the app would require cooperation from the app’s developers and that they would not be required to do so for users over the age of 17 years old.
Mia Clemons, the Black Student Union’s treasurer said that she and others are working with some university departments to possibly trace the comments “so the university has no option but to hold these people accountable.”
But thus far Clemons said she’s been unimpressed with the university’s response.
“Many of us have lowered our expectations and respect for the university and the administration as a whole,” she said. “I cannot continue to advocate for a university that does not advocate for me.”
According to data from DataUSAio.com, High Point University has a total enrollment of 5,330 students, 75 percent of which are white. Almost seven percent are Black while less than six percent are Latinx.
On their website, the university states their commitment to diversity and inclusion by stating the following: “High Point University considers a strong commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion as a core component of our mission and an essential ingredient to a holistic education in the liberal arts tradition. A liberal arts education develops critical thinkers, moving students from a fixed-mindset to a growth-mindset. This approach to learning prepares students for reflective action in an interdependent and diverse world. We not only understand and respect the unique talents and perspectives of all individuals but we also embrace and utilize their contributions. Our breadth of inclusiveness creates a path by which all individuals can achieve their highest potential in an increasingly complex and pluralistic society.”
This is a developing story.
Follow the university’s Black student union on Instagram at @highpointbsu to learn more.
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