Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) has come under fire this week for its plans to host controversial speakers at an off-campus Q&A event. A petition opposed to the event has also been put forward.
Students have taken to social media to voice their anger at the Student Union’s decision to allow the Sussex Conservative Society to host ‘far right’ Turning Point USA (TPUSA) speakers Charlie Kirk and Candice Owens – both of whom have been accused of using “racist slurs and tweets”.
The organisation’s own head, Charlie Kirk, has a history of sharing racist tweets.
A petition was started by a group of Sussex students and has already gained over 50 signatures. The students have also penned an open letter to USSU.
The students, who have requested to remain anonymous, told The Badger they believe that Turning Point USA “should not be allowed” to speak at the University due to their “historical disregard for safe space policy […] rampant racism and xenophobia”.
They added that: “Hosting TPUSA will only serve to disparage Sussex’s progressive reputation.
Despite the fact that the event is hosted off campus, this does not erase the fact that it is being hosted in the name of the University of Sussex and endorsed by its Student Union.
Responding to the criticisms, Secretary of the Conservative Society, Will Glenton, told The Badger that the backlash is “wildly overblown” and that due to the “low response rate” of the petition the “views expressed in the open letter are not representative of students at Sussex”. Mr Glenton added that: “The accusations of xenophobia are false, and have been taken out of context by people who seem to be terrified of freedom and individualism”.
The open letter, which was published online with the petition, is published below:
Dear Students’ Union,
On behalf of the students at Sussex, we would like to question the Student Union’s approval of Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens on the grounds of their violation of the SU’s external speaker’s policy.
The organisation has a history of racism, including hiring employees who have used racist slurs, such as Crystal Clanton and the employee who replaced her. In 2018, TPUSA members studying at Florida International University joked about deporting Latina women and shared racist memes of Syrian men raping Swedish women – the organisation’s own head, Charlie Kirk, has a history of sharing racist tweets.
TPUSA members have also contested safe space and conduct rules on university campuses on several occasions on the basis of free speech, including Grand Valley State University in 2016 and Kent State University in 2017 – this already gives an indication of their respect for safe space policies.
Despite the fact that the event is hosted off campus, this does not erase the fact that it is being hosted in the name of the University of Sussex, and endorsed by its Student Union.
It is clear that the hosting of Turning Point USA violates the SU’s aim of creating a ‘safe, tolerant and inclusive environment’, detailed within their safe space policy, as well as negating their compliance with the Equality and Diversity policy. This encompasses the external speaker policy of not tolerating ‘discriminatory language or conduct’ – something that hosting TPUSA evidently goes against.
We feel that the only acceptable response for the Student Union is to cancel the event.
Students of Sussex