FIU Professors: Kick TPUSA Off Campus for Racist Comments, Rape Jokes

TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk (left) and the group's gross FIU chat.
TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk (left) and the group's gross FIU chat. Gage Skidmore via Flickr / TPUSA FIU
This past Tuesday, New Times published internal chats showing members of the Florida International University chapter of Turning Point USA joking about white nationalism, "Jew-hating," underage cartoon porn, and Syrian refugees raping white women. But so far, school administrators have done nothing. In fact, amid a national outcry over the leaked, racist chats, TPUSA even set up a table on the FIU campus today to hand out buttons and "Socialism Sucks" posters.

Dozens of FIU professors are now demanding that the school promptly kick the group off the public university's campus, according to a draft letter New Times obtained today.

"We are writing to express our strong opposition to the racist, misogynistic and xenophobic culture that the FIU chapter of Turning Point, USA is spreading on our campus," the faculty letter reads.

Nearly two days after New Times first requested comment on the racist chats, FIU president Mark Rosenberg finally issued a statement this afternoon condemning the offensive statements and promising an internal investigation — but also somehow claimed TPUSA is not a registered club at the school despite the fact that the group is listed in FIU's official "PantherConnect" student portal and, again, was handing out buttons on campus today.

TPUSA, which was founded in 2012 by commentator Charlie Kirk to fight alleged left-wing bias on college campuses, is popular with Donald Trump Jr. and widely supported by #MAGA Nation. But the chats obtained by New Times show members of the group at FIU joking about dressing up as Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to "aggressively tackle Latinas and deport them," included memes about watching cartoon pornography featuring underage girls, references to "Jew-hating" and white supremacist Richard Spencer, and, most troubling, a racist Pepe the Frog meme depicting Syrian men raping a Swedish woman at gunpoint.

That's why Ronald W. Cox, a professor of politics and international relations at FIU, is demanding swift action against the group. He says he plans to gather even more faculty signatures before submitting the letter to Rosenberg "by the end of the week."

A portion of the letter reads thusly:

This is an appalling set of practices that go well beyond any reasonable interpretation of “free speech.” In fact, this organization, demonstrated by the behavior of the FIU chapter, is antithetical to academic norms of free speech, intellectual discourse and tolerance of opposing views. The actions of the FIU Turning Point USA chapter do not conform to the code of student conduct that has been established in the FIU Constitution that provides explicit guidelines for student organizations and the behavior of individuals within those organizations, which includes “respect [for] the tradition of academic inquiry, the University’s rules of conduct, and respect [for] the opinions and differences of all members of the FIU community.” The FIU Turning Point USA Chapter has willfully and blatantly violated these guidelines for student organizations.

Therefore, given the extensive paper trail of racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic behavior demonstrated by the FIU Turning Point USA chapter, which is consistent with the practices and behavior of Turning Point USA as a national organization, we call on the FIU administration to rescind the recognition of the FIU Turning Point USA chapter as an official student organization.
New Times first asked FIU to comment on the chats this past Monday. Today, Rosenberg finally issued a statement, in which he bizarrely claims TPUSA is not an official club recognized on campus.

That statement appears to be false, because the group is listed on the university's online "PantherConnect" student portal and has been photographed repeatedly posting tables on campus and using FIU rooms and facilities. Campus groups are allowed to do these things only if they've been recognized by the school. Moreover, the university's student magazine, PantherNOW, in 2017 published a story about TPUSA coming to FIU. Former FIU president (and Donald Trump donor) Modesto "Mitch" Maidique has been photographed with TPUSA members and at the club's events.

Rosenberg also claimed the school wasn't sure the group was behind the chats before finally getting around to condemning the racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic statements:

"We have learned of statements being attributed to a group by the name of Turning Point, which is not an officially recognized student organization at FIU," Rosenberg claims. "At this time, we do not know if those messages are an authentic chat involving FIU students. The sentiments reflected in the screen shots are incompatible with the values of our FIU community and inconsistent with a safe and inclusive campus environment. Our Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution is looking into the matter and, if a violation of our Student Code of Conduct has occurred, will take appropriate action.”

This is far from the first time a campus group at the publicly funded FIU has been caught making heinous jokes. In 2017, New Times outed the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity on the FIU campus for making obscene rape jokes and sharing nude photos of women without the subjects' consent. FIU then temporarily suspended all Greek letter organizations on campus.

New Times then caught the FIU College Republicans joking about the 2017 murder of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a neo-Nazi drove a Dodge Charger into a crowd of people during the white-supremacist rally Unite the Right in Charlottesville, Virginia. The chats also showed the campus Republicans joking about getting Latino student activists deported. After the chats became public, the group's vice-president quit the club.

Nationally, TPUSA has a more than small problem with racism and the online alt-right. TPUSA workers have been caught tweeting the N-word and writing "I hate black people," among other inexcusable nonsense. Kirk, moreover, founded the group to combat left-wing bias on colleges, but data suggests leftist professors tend to have a more difficult time getting accepted on campuses than conservatives. TPUSA is perhaps most infamous for the actions of its Kent State University chapter in Ohio, where students dressed up in adult diapers to parody "crybaby liberals" but wound up looking like buffoons and are now constantly ridiculed online for committing one of the world's biggest self-owns.

TPUSA members at FIU have not responded to requests for comment from New Times about the chats. But local progressive activists cornered one of the group's members on campus today. The club's leader said he had no comment before fleeing the table:
"Can we ask about the stuff in your group chat?" the student asks the TPUSA member.

"Sorry, no comment," he responds before gathering his things and walking away.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.