University of Connecticut students, faculty and residents of the state packed into the Student Union Theater amidst chaos and counter protests on Tuesday night to listen and argue with conservative Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk and his guests Candace Owens and Dave Rubin.
The event, which required significant security around campus and prompted the university to close down parts of the Student Union for students and ticket-holders only, was intended to expose those in attendance to views they may not be accustomed to hearing, UConn TPUSA Chapter President Joseph Gatti, who invited the group to campus back in December, said.
“We need to allow people to speak freely without interruptions during events including invited speakers and members of the audience,” Gatti said. “Preventing people from exercising their right to free speech goes against our identity as a university.”
Numerous well-known conservative figures such as Donald Trump Jr., Dr. Jordan Peterson, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv have spoken at events spearheaded by Turning Point USA in the past.
Kirk began the event by saying he heard from numerous students that UConn English professor Martha Cutter allegedly told her students to buy tickets to the event but then not show to ensure other students would not be able to get in.
“You are telling students from your position of authority to lie, to do an act of deceit because you are afraid of other ideas,” Kirk said.
Rubin reflected similarly, saying the professor would be doing her students a great disservice intellectually by ordering them to prevent people from attending. The speakers encouraged Cutter to introduce herself or ask a question if she was in the audience.
“So telling your students not to learn and get new information, but more importantly stopping other students from coming by taking the tickets so that other people do not show up, that is the reverse of why we are all here,” Rubin said.
Cutter was seen leaving the presentation toward its conclusion and did not make any comments to the speakers on the allegations against her. University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz added that the university has no solid evidence of any such claims.
“We have no firsthand knowledge of what the faculty member may have said regarding the event,” Reitz said.
Kirk continued by outlining the goals of Turning Point USA’s past policy and ideological differences.
“America is the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world, that is the first thing we believe in. We also believe that the Constitution is the single greatest framework for any government in civil society,” Kirk said. “We believe that free-enterprise capitalism is the most moral, proven and effective economic system ever discovered that has expanded opportunity for all people.”
Owens went on to discuss that the organization believes Democrats breed their followers and voters to adhere to a victim complex that is deemed acceptable.
“Everywhere you go, people tell you that being a victim is cool,” Owens said. “All you should look for is how you can be a victim. You are a victim because you are a woman, join our radical feminist movement and put this big pussy hat on your head.”
In 2007, Owens said she was the target of a hate crime as a senior at Stamford High School where four boys, including former Connecticut governor Dannel Malloy’s son, left threatening and racist voicemails in Owens’ inbox. She said she became a conservative soon after newspapers and activist groups labeled her as a victim and refused to engage in any further dialogue. (https://www.ctpost.com/local/article/We-were-children-I-wasn-t-the-only-6872580.php)
“How dare you (those who accuse Owens of being racist) say that I am now in a place where I am coming back to my home state to preach white supremacist ideas,” Owens said. “It makes me upset.”
Owens said that she felt Democratic groups were more interested in using her experience as a ploy to advance their own agendas instead of caring about true conversations and discourse.
“The victimhood really does become a type of cancer in your life,” Owens said. “It feels so good to overcome that.”
Rubin added that he believes liberals will glorify being a victim in any situation, which further perpetuates a false state of power.
“They (Democrats) are rewarding victimhood nature,” Rubin said. “Fight for what you believe in and fight for it honestly and decently.”
The speakers then opened up the floor to students and encouraged them to ask questions. Those who disagreed with the organization were told to go to the front of the line and prepare their statements.
Students questioned Owens’ stance on the legitimacy of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” Another student asked about how the organization felt about being included in the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto as an inspiration for his crimes.
“Stop using platforms for crazy,” Owens responded. “Do not try to make sense of a homicidal, crazy idiot.”
Daniel Norman, a UConn graduate student in physics, said he was not impressed with the ideas the speakers brought to campus and felt their arguments were illusionary.
“For me, Kirk, Owens and Rubin are very much negative, infamous celebrities. I also legitimately think there is something very dangerous about what they are promoting,” Norman said. “I think their whole thing is to stir up controversy so they can talk about that controversy at their next event.”
Norman said his largest critique of the speakers is that they blame America’s problems on progressive movements as opposed to the current presidential administration.
“They are, to some extent, fueling the reactionary hysteria of people who feel like the danger America faces is nebulous cultural change being promoted by LGBTQ+ groups and feminists,” Norman said. “I think it is insane to think that they (modern social justice movements) are a threat to American Constitutional values as compared to what the fucking president of the United States is doing right now with his overreach.”
Anna Holland, a fourth-semester political science major, said she was glad she attended the event despite the controversy surrounding it.
“Tonight was amazing,” Holland said. “I look up to them so much and their point of view is really refreshing to hear.”
Holland said she believes the discourse at the event will help students in the future to avoid making assumptions about people despite their affiliations with political parties.
“People see the word ‘conservative’ and they see the word ‘Republican’ and they automatically have these ideas that they are not truly educated on,” Holland said. “Some believe that conservatives and Republicans want to shut other people down when really it’s the Democrats that are doing that.”
Kirk closed the discussion by stressing to the audience that not all change is good, and that students should always be hypervigilant of any kind of progressive movements.
“Do not ever fall yourself into that trap that progress is always good if that progress is going off the cliff,” Kirk said.
Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.