Update 4/12/22: This article has been updated to include information from Turning Point USA Berkeley chapter President Ashley Economou
Conservative political commentator Charlie Kirk will arrive at UC Berkeley Wednesday night as a part of his “Educate, Don’t Mandate” tour.
The tour, which aims to advocate against mask mandates on high school and college campuses, is hosted by Turning Point USA, a national conservative student advocacy group Kirk founded in 2012. Kirk’s tour also includes conservative commentator Allie Stuckey.
Turning Point USA, or TPUSA, maintains a presence on over 3000 American high schools and college campuses, and includes over 250,000 student members, according to the organization’s website. Kirk previously came to campus in 2019 after an altercation involving the assault of a man tabling for Turning Point.
In the past, Kirk has raised controversy for claiming he did not get into West Point Military Academy because a less-qualified woman candidate received the role; for spreading falsities about voter fraud and the COVID-19 pandemic; and for repeating incorrect statistics begun on the conspiracy site 8chan on his personal social media. Kirk is an avid supporter of former president Donald Trump and chaired the Students for Trump group in advance of the 2020 election cycle.
Ashley Economou, president of the TPUSA campus chapter, which was recognized as a Registered Student Organization last semester, said the club saw Kirk as a “strong voice in the conservative political world.”
She added that she found it important for campus to host speakers with different political ideologies, and felt “confident” this event would show the hard work of chapter members.
According to Economou, the club has been planning the event since fall of 2021 and confirmed Kirk as a speaker about two months ago.
“UC Berkeley currently has a policy requiring the new covid vaccine as well as an approved booster shot for all students,” Economou said in an email. “We disagree with this mandate, and this event looks to educate attendees on our reasoning.”
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that campus has prepared for Kirk’s event with “usual” protocols and policies in place for events sponsored by student organizations.
He described the policies as “perspective neutral,” and emphasized their priority of safety for both the campus community and its visitors.
Campus public policy Carmel P. Friesen professor Robert Reich said he thought it was “wonderful” that Kirk was coming to campus, since it was the birthplace of the free speech movement. He elaborated, noting that despite Kirk’s differing beliefs to many members of the campus community, the event provides the opportunity for community members to respond thoughtfully and ask for evidence to support Kirk’s political positions.
Reich further noted he would be interested to know who funds Kirk’s actions and “activities.”
“Although he called Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson “an ideological, unintelligent, yet confident fanatic who is so dismissive that you might even ask the question of what a woman is,” we should be curious about why anyone could draw these conclusions from her record,” Reich said in an email. “Although he falsely claims that humans have no significant effect on global climate change, we should ask him why he feels compelled to make this claim.”
The event will be held Wednesday evening, and Economou said TPUSA Berkeley expects several hundred people to watch the event at its venue. Those who do not have tickets have the option to join online.