College

College started by priests fleeing Castro's communist Cuba shut down pro-capitalist club

Steve Harrigan reports from Cuba

 

A Florida university founded by Augustinian priests expelled from communist Cuba under Fidel Castro is under fire for shutting down a pro-capitalism club for its use of what school officials call “foul language.”

Administrators at St. Thomas University said in a letter to the field director of Turning Point USA, Driena Sixto, that the club’s use of “foul language” does not align with the school’s Roman Catholic values and that they are prohibited from promoting their cause on campus.

“In reviewing your organization, including its website, we found that your organization’s use of foul language is offensive to the very principle of what we stand for in our Catholic core values as an institution,” Carmen Brown, the St. Thomas administrator, wrote in a March 16 letter obtained by College Fix. “Therefore, we regret to inform you that we are not approving your organization’s presence on our campus.”

Turning Point USA is a conservative nonprofit and student movement whose stated mission is to "identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government."

While administrators at St. Thomas did respond to Sixto’s request for clarification, she said that she believes that school officials probably took offense to the club’s slogans and signs reading “Big Government Sucks” and “Socialism Sucks.”

Sixto, who is not a student at St. Thomas but works with Turning Point USA to start club chapters at Miami-area universities, sent a pointed message to students at the school who signed up for the organization.

“In an ironic turn of events, the school that was founded in 1961 by Augustinians that were expelled from Cuba by the communist Castro dictatorship is now a school where conservative values and freedom of expression are undesired, thanks to complaints of left-wing, and self-declared communist/socialist faculty members,” Sixto wrote.

The administration’s move to shut down the group has even drawn the ire of the top brass at Turning Point USA, who called the incident “troubling.”

“The school invokes a broad opposition to ‘foul language’ to keep a free-market, conservative group off of campus,” Matt Lamb, director of campus integrity for Turning Point USA, said. “The higher-ups in the school administration frequently dodged requests to speak with us, and then failed to keep their facts straight.”

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St. Thomas is not the first college to target Turning Point USA as over the last two years nearly six universities across the country have refused club status to the organization – although a number a number of these clubs have overcome these obstacles with the help of free-speech organizations.

In January, Creighton University finally gave the green light to a student seeking to form the club, but only after rejecting the request twice. An administrator at California’s Santa Clara University overruled in March student government leaders’ February decision to deny the club official recognition.

Turning Point USA’s Lamb says he is hopeful that a similar resolution will happen at St. Thomas.

“We look forward to the university reconsidering their decision,” Lamb said.