On Monday afternoon, the Stanford College Republicans (SCR) announced plans to host a discussion with conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens. The event, named “Make Stanford Great Again,” will take place in Tresidder Memorial Union’s Oak Lounge on May 29.
The Facebook page for the event proclaims that it will “break free from the farcical assumptions and victimhood mentalities propagated by the political Left.”
The online description of the event, which SCR describes as their “year-end grand finale,” also lists a number of well-known right-wing sound bites, ranging from “build the wall” to “abortion is murder” to “white privilege is a lie.”
The page does not clarify the relevance of each of these phrases, although coverage by The Stanford Review states that such themes will be the “topic of the talk.”
In an email to The Daily, SCR Vice President Philip Eykamp ’20 wrote that the group was inspired to host Kirk and Owens — respectively the executive director and communications director of conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA (TPUSA) — after some of SCR’s members saw the two speak at Berkeley.
According to TPUSA’s website, the organization’s mission is to “educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”
“We considered Kirk’s centrality to the youth conservative movement,” Eykamp wrote. He added that SCR “also considered Owens’ passion for empowering young people, especially young black people, to embrace American liberty and her ability to connect that liberty to the conservative principles and policies that make it possible.”
Earlier this month, college news publication The College Fix, a self-described source for “right-minded news,” published a story discussing a failed attempt by SCR to invite Kirk and Owens to speak on campus.
The article quoted SCR President John Rice-Cameron ’20 saying that the failure was due to an inability to secure adequate funding through ASSU mechanisms, thanks to a $1,000 funding cap on speakers and a ban on outside funding — such that Kirk himself was not allowed to cover security and venue expenses — as well as SCR’s inability to secure a departmental sponsor.
In a press release issued at the time, SCR called on Stanford’s Student Activities and Leadership office “to end this petty pattern of intellectual suppression, and allow the unfettered promotion of conservative ideas on campus.”
With the official announcement of the May 29 event, questions of funding seem to have been resolved. Yet ASSU senate appropriations chair Gabe Rosen ’19 told The Daily that “as far as [he is] aware, SCR is not using any ASSU-appropriated funds to pay for [the] event.”
Other campus sources could potentially have provided resources without violating the ban on outside funding. For instance, although the College Fix article said that the “right-of-center” Hoover Institution initially declined an offer to host the event, it is possible that they have since stepped in to provide support.
“A member of SCR attended my funding office hour [Monday] and inquired about depositing a grant from the Hoover [Institution] into their accounts,” Rosen wrote in an email to The Daily. “The member stated that the grant was for event services of some kind, however I am not sure if the event in question was this one.”
As of Monday evening, a representative from the Hoover Institution did not respond to a request for comment on whether the think tank is supporting SCR’s event.
The University, however, did confirm that the funding issues have been cleared up.
“As recommended by Student Activities and Leadership, the Stanford College Republicans postponed their proposed event and have been able to meet all of the university’s requirements to host their program — including paying their outstanding bill,” said University spokesperson E.J. Miranda. “The university is committed to the free exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”
Miranda also cited a November “Notes from the Quad” blog post by University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell entitled “Advancing free speech and inclusion,” in which the two administrators said that “freedom of inquiry and the free expression of ideas are fundamental to the mission of the university” but also that they are “committed to fostering an inclusive campus culture in which all community members feel they belong.”
In mid-April, Kirk, who established TPUSA at age 18, visited Stanford, where he was involved in a Second Amendment-themed tabling event alongside Rice-Cameron, Eykamp and other members of SCR.
Owens recently made headlines when American rapper Kanye West tweeted, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.”
According to its website, TPUSA has over 350 chapters nationwide. Beyond its educational efforts, TPUSA also maintains the controversial Professor Watchlist website, which “expose[s] and document[s] college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
TPUSA did not respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time TPUSA has surfaced in Stanford campus politics this year. On the first day of ASSU elections, the Review endorsed the Khaled/Ocon executive slate, claiming that Michael Ocon ’20 attended a TPUSA conference and accepted campaign funding and “logistical support” from the organization, though the publication cited evidence for only the first allegation. At the time, Ocon denied the allegations as “a personal attack” and “a clear example of voter manipulation.”
Last Thursday, the campus e-newsletter the Fountain Hopper published an article on TPUSA’s efforts — allegedly carried out with the assistance of Rice-Cameron — to establish a presence at Stanford. The article claimed that Rice-Cameron unsuccessfully tried to start a TPUSA chapter at Stanford and that TPUSA may have connections to multiple student government candidates, among other assertions.
Earlier this year, SCR invited controversial author and self-proclaimed Islamophobe Robert Spencer to speak on campus. Spencer’s speech, which was widely criticized by Stanford students and faculty, was disrupted by a student-led walkout.
Though Eykamp expects a similar blowback to the forthcoming event, he remained optimistic.
“Naturally, the left will take exception to any conservative speaker … but we think most people will be more interested in hearing Kirk’s and Owens’ ideas about how to ‘Make Stanford Great Again,’” Eykamp said.
Others, however, were not so sure. Ravi Veriah Jacques ’20, co-founder of the nascent left-wing campus publication Stanford Sphere, also referenced the Spencer event. Jacques predicted that Stanford’s campus would respond “with lots of loud op-eds and walkouts” but said that conservatives are largely “powerless on this campus” otherwise.
“Kirk and that crowd obviously represent dangerous elements of the right, but they pose no threat to Stanford,” Jacques said.
Claire Wang contributed to this report.
Contact Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Jacob Nierenberg at jhn2017 ‘at’ stanford.edu.