Even in the heart of Trump country, college campuses are being increasingly hostile towards conservative students.
In the middle of West Virginia University’s Downtown campus, the Mountainlair student union is home to a large food court, study areas, and meeting spaces for any student organization on campus to use for meetings and events. On Wednesday, January 25th, one of the student organizations holding a meeting was the Left Alliance, a self proclaimed “radical leftist collective” according to their now-deleted Facebook group.
Student organization meetings are open to any student on campus, so members of WVU’s Turning Point USA chapter attended in order to inquire about holding a debate between the groups. Instead of peaceful discourse and “tolerance” that the left claims they possess over the right, the members of Left Alliance started hurling insults and instructed them to leave.
They did so peacefully, but Kelley Denham, president of the Left Alliance, decided that just yelling wasn’t enough. He followed the students into the hallway and began to verbally harass them. One of the girls in the video, Kaitlynn Critchfield, pulled out her phone in order to start recording the incident, but Denham reportedly grabbed her wrist, pushed her up against the wall, and attempted to swat the phone out of her hand. After separating the two and making sure she was okay, Michael Quinlan, another student who attended the meeting, began filming. The video was posted to both Critchfield’s and Quinlan’s respective social media accounts.
The video was also reposted by Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA.
Support for the conservative students poured in on social media.
The University Police Department was called after this assault occurred and a report was filed, but charges have not been filed. The university’s Student Conduct Board is looking into it as well, but even a week after the incident, all we have from the university is a blanket statement about defending the right to peacefully express ideas. In a statement to WVU’s campus newspaper The Daily Athenaeum (and his only public statement thus far), Denham accuses the Turning Point members of staging this as “a targeted attack” and that “they were attempting to infiltrate and document us.” He has not apologized or offered an explanation for the verbal threats and slurs that were yelled at the Turning Point members. He self-identifies as an “anarchist communist” and has ties to the Morgantown Ultra Left Network, an “anti-state communist network” according to their Tumblr page.
Attacks like this have become more frequent in the last year, and something needs to be done about this. We cannot live in a world where people are targeted for their beliefs, no matter what they are. The left always accuse the right of attacking their rights and infiltrating their safe spaces, but when a conservative student is attacked by a liberal student, it is buried and not talked about. If the roles were reversed in this situation, much stronger action would have been taken against the offenders. At a university where diversity is encouraged, action has to be taken against a person who threatens the “peaceful exchange of ideas”.
*Featured Image credit: Michael Quinlan, West Virginia University’s Turning Point USA chapter president