‘Misinformation’ spread about Turning Point USA chapter

President of Turning Point USA’s UWEC chapter emphasizes, ‘We don’t discriminate’

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021
Lea Kopke

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Annie Schneider, the president of UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA chapter, said the comments in the memes page were “defamatory” and “false.”

Moderators of “UWEC Memes for Trend-Setting Teens” said on Thursday that “misinformation” spread in the Facebook group after the newly formed Turning Point USA chapter at UW-Eau Claire began receiving backlash earlier this week. 

Members of the group began posting memes and comments, which negatively targeted the student organization, on Tuesday, labeling TP USA as a “white supremacist group” and an “org with known ties to white nationalist activists and fascist organizers.”  

Annie Schneider, the president of UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA chapter, read many of the comments on the memes page about the student organization and said the comments were “defamatory” and “false.”

She said UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA chapter is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan” organization that embraces “free-market capitalism, limited government and freedom.”

“We do not stand for racism or misogyny or anti-semitism or any of the accusations we were handed on the meme page,” Schneider said. “We are open to any and all students at the university. We don’t discriminate.” 

Jackson Anderson, the vice president of the TP USA chapter at UW-Eau Claire, said critical posts started getting shared on the memes page after Chancellor James. C Schmidt congratulated Schneider on LinkedIn for her new role as president.

Schneider clarified, in an interview with The Spectator, that she is not entirely sure if Schmidt was congratulating her on her new role as president of TP USA or her other new role with the student organization E3

One of the first posts on the Memes page that criticized UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA chapter was created by Lexi Kane, one of the moderators of the memes group. The meme was an image of a soldier — labeled as Schmidt — bowing down to another person — labeled as “conservatives & racists.” 

However, in the announcement shared on behalf of all of the memes’ group moderators on Thursday, Kane said, “The message that TPUSA received from the Chancellor when they created their organization is the same message that goes out to all new organizations that are created on UWEC’s campus. They are all greeted the same way by the administration.”

A petition was also organized by Evan Peterson, a fifth-year English critical studies student, and shared on the memes page, calling for UW-Eau Claire to revoke support for the TP USA chapter. The petition has 1,078 signatures as of Feb. 12.

Peterson said the goal of the petition is not to shut the Eau Claire TP USA chapter down entirely, but rather to encourage the university to pull its support from the group by no longer treating it as an official university organization. This would cause the student organization to lose university funding and access to university public spaces.

Peterson said he had been aware and concerned about TP USA at the national level prior to learning about the campus chapter, especially after reading a report done by the Anti-Defamation League, a group which fights against extremism and discrimination.

The report covers several controversies from within the past three years, including TP USA leaders at the University of Nevada chanting “white power.” In another instance, there were messages from a Florida International University WhatsApp group, telling members to avoid scrutiny by not saying racist language.

“I haven’t heard anything in particular about the UW-Eau Claire chapter or any of the people involved,” Peterson said. “It’s really more hearing a lot over the years about this organization’s central leadership and the culture encouraged along a lot of its local chapters and the character of its support base at events.”

A Wikipedia page about TP USA at the national level describes the group as a “right-wing organization that says it advocates conservative narratives on high school, college and university campuses.”

Schneider said while supporting “free-market capitalism, limited government and freedom” are ideas that “lean right,” UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA chapter is not affiliated that way.

According to photos obtained by The Spectator, a constitution for a Turning Point USA chapter at UW-Eau Claire was approved in 2019, but Schneider said the organization fell through when the original students involved had graduated.

Now that UW-Eau Claire’s TP USA is officially up and running this semester, Anderson said the organization met on Tuesday as a group and then walked around Davies to see if anyone was interested in joining.

“Everyone we talked to was positive about it,” Anderson said. “They didn’t really know much about it actually.”

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected]

Kopke can be reached at [email protected].