Protecting conservative thought and what it’s like for this professor to be on Turning Point USA’s professor watchlist


graphic courtesy: Turning Point USA website

Cait Malilay, News Editor

Last month, I had the opportunity to interview the president of Turning Point USA State University of New York College at Buffalo chapter, a conservative-leaning organization that has yet to be officiated by USG, on his thoughts on Critical Race Theory and what Turning Point USA is.

In my last article, I wrote, “More to come on this topic soon!” Here is part two of that interview.

Alexander Kolasny said that he was very hesitant when he made the decision to launch a SUNY Buffalo State College chapter of TPUSA.

“I did not know what kind of reaction or reception I would get. I’m like, I don’t want to lose the respect of my professors, [or] some of my friends,” he said.

photo credit: Tampa Bay Times / Michaela Mulligan

Kolasny described that he was relieved to attend the 7th annual Student Action Summit, which is an event held by TPUSA that features conservative public figures such as Donald Trump Jr, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“There were people there of all different races, genders, ethnicities from all over the country, and it was just such an empowering experience to know that I’m not alone in this fight because sometimes whether it’s Buffalo State or the Buffalo community as a whole, you kinda feel a little isolated being of a conservative mindset,” he said.

He and his friends are well aware of where each of them lie on the political spectrum, but Kolasny describes that they have a tolerant mindset.

Across the student body, there’s a lot of people where you can have political conversations with, but, according to him, “it’s way easier to find the extreme liberal than the extreme conservative on this campus.”

One value that Turning Point USA holds is freedom of speech and expression, especially for the protection of conservative thought.

One way that they maintain that initiative is through a professor watchlist, which essentially exposes professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

“There is a lot of canceling on the left to do it to the conservative,” Kolasny said. “I think everyone should be able to express their opinions and have a platform and have their own set of ideas, and not feel a victim of their repercussions just for having an alternative viewpoint.”

There are no professors from SUNY Buffalo State College on the list, but there is a former University at Buffalo professor.

Jonathan Katz, who now teaches art history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies at University of Pennsylvania, said that he is “very proud to be on the list.”

“I take that to be one of my most cherished accomplishments,” he said in an interview via Zoom.

Katz first realized that he was on the professor watchlist when he started receiving hate mail.

“I find the opening of such organizations on college campuses to be a really troubling sign of the politicization of a new field of endeavor to people who have already politicized so much, but also an abandonment of the notion of what the academy is at the core,” he said.

Graphic courtesy: Turning Point USA website

For example, one of the Conservative Party’s latest obsessions was critical race theory, a lens which analyzes the inequalities between whites and nonwhites in the law and legal institutions of the U.S.

GOP officials keep initiating the idea that they are against it from being implemented even though there is little to no evidence that it is taught in K-12 schools.

“With CRT, there is a little bit more of them telling you the narrative even though the narrative is contradictory a lot of the times to the historical things that have actually happened,” Kolasny said.

“It’s unbelievable to me that people who have never read [about] critical race theory and have no idea what the hell they’re talking about think that they have a right to abide,” Katz said.

When asked what if liberals were to say conservatives are canceling CRT, Kolasny said they’re not canceling it, they’re “just not supporting it.”

“There’s a difference. Canceling is to say, ‘Let’s not get this out. Let’s make sure no one believes it to get out.’ Turning Point says, ‘We don’t believe in this, we don’t think this should be implemented in our schools,’ and we don’t, like me in the future, I don’t want my kids to be subjected.”

CRT is a graduate-level academic framework.

“What scholarship is supposed to do and universities are supposed to do is not offer opinions, but to root ideas in evidence, in facts, and to show, using an ethical frame of course, how certain policies damage certain populations and to understand how to work towards a collective betterment,” Katz said.

There is nothing about Turning Point USA that fits this framework, according to Katz.

Katz said that he has many students who hold conservative viewpoints in his classes, but what he asks of them, as well as every student, is to support their opinion with evidence.

“If you want to hold a conservative opinion, then you have to show me and show other students why that is an appropriate position, and what I often find is that conservative students keep reiterating the ‘I’m allowed to hold my own [opinion]’ defense as a kind of bulk work or sort of barrier against thought and that, I find very troubling,” he said.

What are your thoughts on the professor watchlist or the Conservative Party’s use of the term, “cancel?” The Record wants to know. Let us know in the social media comments!