CSU’s TPUSA is back, a mess, and creating a hateful environment on campus

The Cleveland State chapter of Turning Point USA is back on the Cleveland State campus, and it is a mess. The organization was active in the late 2010s, with speakers like Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens coming to CSU in 2017 and 2018.

In 2018, Tiffany Roberts, former president of the Cleveland State TPUSA chapter, was graduating, and her main focus was finding and training her replacement. After 2018, however, the organization was frozen in 2021 due to the COVID-19 shutdown. 

The current president, Joey Falconi, started the organization back up in the 2022-2023 academic year. When they were active previously, the organization had 50 members. Now they sit at eight, according to Vikes Connect.

Under Falconi’s leadership, the organization was removed from tabling on Feb. 22 in the student center for breaking the RSO manual on the procedure of getting tabling approved. CSU TPUSA brought its own table and put it next to the Queer Student Alliance table.

The Cauldron has multiple sources confirming the events.

The Cauldron reached out to John Plecnik, a professor in the law school, for comment on Feb. 27, as he was listed as the advisor of TPUSA at the time. 

“There apparently was a misunderstanding, as I never agreed to serve as faculty advisor for {TPUSA},” Plecnik told The Cauldron. “My name was added in error and will be removed shortly.”

Since TPUSA did not have a faculty advisor per the RSO Manual, the organization was temporarily suspended until Feb. 28, when Wenbing Zhao, a professor at the electrical engineering & computer science department, became the new advisor.

The Cauldron also reached out to Falconi on Feb. 27 for an interview, to which Falconi failed to respond. 

Hateful Environment

The organization plans to host a movie night for the movie ‘An American Carol.’ 

“We are also planning our first major event featuring ‘An American Carol,'” a statement read from CSU TPUSA’s Instagram.

Many CSU students believe the contents of the movie promote hate speech and should not be shown on campus. 

“The film exhibited radical, bigoted ideologies, such as the demonstration of antisemitism, xenophobia, and overall racism and ignorance shown in the film,” wrote columnist Victoria Fields in an opinion piece. “Personally, I feel repulsed that such a hateful organization is impacting our campus, and I hope that no conflicts arise regarding TPUSA and their behaviors.”

On Feb. 24, Senator Aaron Retych of the Student Government Association gave a speech during a Student Government Session over concerns about an opinion piece published by The Cauldron on TPUSA and the movie “An American Carol.” 

Senator Retych, in his speech, accused The Cauldron of publishing misinformation and presented concern that the opinion piece included Falconi’s name.

The Cauldron confirmed that the opinion piece contained no false information.

Falconi told The Cauldron, “I did not ask [Retych] to do anything.”

Retych has yet to present evidence to The Cauldron that we published misinformation.

This is not the first time TPUSA created an environment in CSU that students felt was hateful on campus. On October 19, 2017, students protesting Kirk’s presence felt that TPUSA sponsored an environment of hate speech and homophobia.

“Demand free speech, not hate speech,” one student shouted during the 2017 protest. . “All I want you to take away from today is to let people live their lives.”

Ties to Alec Popivker

On Feb. 28, under Falconi’s leadership, the CSU TPUSA chapter’s Instagram account posted a graphic on their story stating, “Israel aims to protect. Terrorists aim to kill,” which only showed the Israeli and Palestinian flags. 

According to a recent Cleveland Jewish News article, Falconi is a supporter of Alec Popivker. Popivker was deemed persona non grata by CSU due to allegedly stealing a Palestinian Human Rights student organization banner from the CSU Student Center earlier this year.

Popivker is being charged with theft in the Cleveland Municipal Court under case 2023-CRB-000551.

The Cauldron has also covered Popivker’s harassment of Palestinian and Muslim students, in which Popivker preached hateful rhetoric such as, “Palestinians are Nazis” and “Palestinians are the KKK.”

CSU TPUSA, under Falconi’s leadership, has started to preach the same rhetoric that Popivker preached, which has disturbed and concerned the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights student organization.

“We are disturbed by the organizations’ proclamation; their post attempts to paint a false correlation of Palestinian existence with terrorism. Advertisements as such are damaging to victims who endure systemic oppression in any humanitarian crisis,” Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights told The Cauldron. “It associates Palestinians with a false narrative and rejects the reality of Palestinian hardship. We hope the organization reevaluates its admission of hateful advocation toward a marginalized group.”

The Cauldron reached out to Zhao for comment on March 6 regarding the racist remarks featured in “An American Carol,” the organization’s failure to follow the RSO manual, and whether or not he’s comfortable that CSU TPUSA is labeling Palestinians as terrorists.

Zhao failed to respond in time for publication.

Update March 19th: The Cauldron regrets the statement in a tweet that an SGA senator was lying at an SGA session and any harm it may have caused as the statement was not correct. The Cauldron strives to maintain a high level of accuracy and objectivity in our reporting and will continue to do so in the future. A previous version of this story claimed Senator Aaron Retych was not a member of CSU TPUSA. Retych is, in fact, a member of CSU’s TPUSA chapter in Vikesconnect.