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Student organization receives backlash over imagery in promotion of event

Turning Point USA, an on-campus student organization, faced controversy surrounding imagery on a promotional flyer sent out to advertise an event.  – Photo by Matan Dubnikov

On March 31, the Rutgers chapter of Turning Point USA published a registration page for its event “Exposing Marxist Tactics” and uploaded an event poster featuring a cartoon of four racial caricatures punching an Uncle Sam character while stating “Cultural Marxism.”

Several students made complaints to Rutgers' administration citing the controversial nature of the poster, which had also been posted on Rutgers Turning Point USA’s Instagram account. 

University spokesperson Megan Schumann said the organization voluntarily replaced the poster and eventually canceled the event. 

Rutgers Turning Point USA then hosted an online event called “Providence to Save America” last Tuesday, the same day that the original “Exposing Marxist Tactics” event was scheduled.

The organization's email newsletter mentioned that the event would include the same speakers, Victor Jessop and Thomas Cromwell, who were originally featured in the “Exposing Marxist Tactics” event.

Student groups such as the Rutgers Democrats and RU Progressive released statements condemning the use of racial imagery and the term “Cultural Marxism" on the original poster.

Rutgers Democrats released a public statement explaining that the term “Cultural Marxism” refers to a conspiracy theory that people of color, Jewish individuals and members of other marginalized groups are planning to destroy “Western” culture. 

In RU Progressive’s statement, the group called for substantive action from the University and urged Rutgers students to contact University President Jonathan Holloway regarding a plan of action.

In response to the upload of the poster, the All Marxist-Leninist Union (AMLU) organized a protest against Turning Point USA and demanded that the group be removed from Rutgers and all members of its officer board be expelled from the University.

Oscar Villar, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year and a member of the AMLU, said his organization unanimously voted to hold a protest against Turning Point USA on the same day the original poster was uploaded.

He said that he does not think other organizations are acting with the same amount of urgency that the AMLU is with regard to responding to the controversy. 

Additionally, Villar said that the Rutgers administration has not responded adequately to the issue either and allowed Rutgers Turning Point USA to make statements that are harmful to the Rutgers community.

“Unfortunately, the backlash that (Rutgers Turning Point USA) received, they are not going to learn anything from it other than to just be more discrete and more covert in their messaging,” he said.

Rutgers Turning Point USA released a statement on Thursday and said that the organization had no malicious intent when posting about the “Exposing Marxist Tactics” event and had taken the post down after issues were brought to the officer board’s attention. 

In addition, the organization said it expects Rutgers to protect its First Amendment rights and ensure that there are not any threats against members of the organization.

“We find it very intellectually dishonest of other clubs and individuals to falsely label our members and organization,” Rutgers Turning Point USA said in its statement. “We expect the Rutgers University administration to hold accountable those involved in every false accusation, defamation and attempted doxing of our members as per Rutgers University policy.”

Schumann said the University’s Student Affairs staff will be meeting with Rutgers Turning Point USA to discuss the situation.

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