Ilana Panich Linsman / The New York Times

Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist and founder of Turning Point USA, delivers a speech to female voters in Texas in June. Kirk will speak at Cornell on Nov. 13.

October 14, 2018

Conservative Activist Charlie Kirk Brings ‘Campus Clash’ Lecture to Cornell

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Conservative activists Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, famous for hot-take views and a strong social media presence, will hold a talk at Cornell on Nov. 13 as part of their national “Campus Clash” tour across the United States.

Kirk and Owen plan to speak at Cornell as leading members of the Turning Point USA, a conservative non-profit dedicated to building a “conservative grassroots activist network on college campuses,” according to their website. The Campus Clash Tour, which covers 11 universities across the United States, began at the University of Colorado Boulder on Oct. 3 and will end at Cornell.

Kirk founded Turning Point in 2012 after writing an essay for Breitbart news about liberal bias in educational textbooks. He now serves as its executive director. At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Kirk was the youngest speaker and has also been featured on Fox News, CNBC and Business News. Owens is the communications director for the organization and is known for being a women of color with an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement. She has also appeared on InfoWars and Fox News.

The event, slated to take place in 165 McGraw Hall, is currently not listed on Cornell’s event page. Marshal Hoffman ’19, president of the Cornell branch of Turning Point USA, said that the event registration is currently pending approval from the University.

Hoffman said the two speakers will “discuss whatever they see fit,” but named a few possible topics that they may discuss.

“One could expect [Kirk and Owens] to speak on topics including the current federal administration, current events domestic and abroad, and other conservative issues,” Hoffman said.

Kirk and Owens have previously experienced vocal pushback against their activism, including an incident in August where they were surrounded by protestors in a Philadelphia diner, The Washington Post reported. 

Protesters have also heckled at several events at Cornell featuring conservative speakers — most recently former Vice President Dick Cheney and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum in the past. Hoffman said the event organizers are “prepared to handle protesters, if the need should arise.”

“I obviously hope protestors will not disrupt the event because using one’s first amendment rights to debilitate others’ ignores the principle of the rights themselves. I encourage those who disagree with Charlie and Candace to attend and ask questions, provided the discussion stays civil,” Hoffman said.

Cornell Republicans president Michael Johns ’20, who is also a columnist for The Sun, said his organization is not involved in the event but noted that he hopes TPUSA “responsibly contribute to the dialogue at Cornell.”

“We are aware of TPUSA’s efforts on campus but we have not received any communication from them asking for cooperation or help on this event,” John said.

Turning Point USA claims to have presence on over 1,300 high schools and university campuses nationwide, including in neighboring Syracuse University and Binghamton University.

The nonprofit’s website does not list Cornell on its chapter directory, but the Cornell branch is listed on Cornell’s OrgSync site.

According to their website, the non-profit’s goal is to educate students about free market values.

“Turning Point USA’s mission is to educate students about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government. Through non-partisan debate, dialogue and discussion, Turning Point USA believes that every young person can be enlightened to true free market values,” the website said.

With the midterm elections coming up, the tour aims to rally conservative student voters, the website says. Kirk and Owens will discuss limited government and the current political culture.

Students can register for free tickets through Eventbrite, which is accessible through Turning Point USA’s website.  The doors will be open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will run from 7-9 p.m. on Nov. 13.