The Koch Network is attacking Turning Point USA over how the pro-Trump campus group is asking members to expose indoctrination in the classroom.
The spat between the Koch Network and Mr. Kirk’s group is indicative of a larger competition about how the political right can advance its causes and values on college campuses. The libertarian-leaning Charles Koch Foundation has long-funded efforts promoting academic freedom on college campuses, while Turning Point USA’s mission is to “build the most organized, active, and powerful conservative grassroots activist network” on campuses nationwide according to its website.
Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk asked his following of conservatives on Sunday to record their professors’ digital classes to reveal the instructors’ agenda.
“To all college students who have their professors switching to online classes: Please share any and ALL videos of blatant indoctrination with @TPUSA at TPUSA.com/ContactUs,” Mr. Kirk tweeted. “Now is the time to document & expose the radicalism that has been infecting our schools. Transparency!”
Mr. Kirk’s tweet drew criticism from academics online. On Tuesday, the Charles Koch Foundation lambasted Turning Point USA’s conduct as “calling for its members to adopt intimidation tactics against faculty.”
“Inciting harassment against scholars isn’t just wrong at a time when many are seeking out new ways to engage their students during a crisis, it’s always wrong,” said Charlie Ruger, Charles Koch Foundation vice president of philanthropy, in a statement. “Targeting, intimidating, and otherwise attempting to silence academics chills the open exchange of ideas and, in turn, chokes off progress.”
The Charles Koch Foundation and Turning Point USA have taken vastly different approaches to their campus-focused work.
Mr. Ruger said that his group remains proud to work with professors and universities that “demonstrate steadfast commitment to expanding students’ access to a diversity of ideas, now and in the future.”
Mr. Kirk’s group is focused on an insurgent audience of students. Mr. Kirk formed Turning Point USA in 2012 and the group’s website said it is on more than 1,500 campuses at high schools and colleges across the country.
Mr. Kirk responded to the Koch Network via Twitter on Wednesday, criticizing the foundation’s decision to make the dispute public.
“Very disappointed by the dishonest & baseless attack by the Koch foundation,” Mr. Kirk tweeted. “I asked students to share blatant anti-America online lectures by professors to increase transparency. Instead of contacting us privately they publicly attack our amazing students.”
The larger fault lines on the political right revealed by the Koch Network’s spat with Turning Point USA look likely to grow in the coming months.