Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative student organization Turning Point USA, will speak at the University Dec. 11.
Kirk’s visit marks the first time a representative from TPUSA has come to speak on campus, according to Christian Diaz De Leon ’21, president of TPUSA Brown. “We’re excited to bring a conservative speaker to articulate a viewpoint students don’t really get exposed to in class.”
Kirk founded TPUSA in 2012 when he was 18 with the hope of building a grassroots conservative network spanning high school and college campuses across the nation. Since 2016, TPUSA has maintained a Professor Watchlist, which documents college professors deemed to discriminate “against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
The nonprofit organization is represented on over 1500 American campuses, according to the TPUSA website. The University’s Undergraduate Council of Students approved the Brown TPUSA chapter as an official student organization in the Dec. 2018, The Herald previously reported.
De Leon hopes to foster a constructive dialogue between Kirk and students despite tension surrounding TPUSA on campus.
“It’s one thing to have free speech. (But) it is another to give a platform to people who actively attack and undermine the identities of many of our students and make them feel marginalized on this campus,” said Zoë Mermelstein ’21, president of Brown College Democrats.
Mermelstein affirmed that Brown Dems supports a diversity of thought in speakers on campus, but emphasized that there is a “very big line between who disagrees with us and somebody who is attacking identities.” Citing comments that he has made about people of color and the LGBTQ community, Mermelstein said that Kirk crosses that line.
During the first half of his talk Kirk will discuss “the biggest political issues facing current day Americans,” while the second half will be a Q&A between Kirk and the audience, according to De Leon. TPUSA Brown hopes to organize a constructive conversation between Kirk and students who hold opposing views.
Mermelstein does see productive conversations between those of opposing points as possible, citing the Oct. 31 No Labels 2020 Election Debate between Brown Democrats and Brown Republicans. But, “personally, I don’t think it’s productive to ask questions of someone I know frequently distorts the truth and partakes in bigoted language,” she added.
The talk will be located in the IBES building at 85 Waterman Street and start at 7 p.m.