Controversial Turning Point, College Republicans events not funded by University


Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer

A protestor holds up a transgender pride flag at a rally protesting Riley Gaines’ appearance at the O’Hara Ballroom Monday evening.

By Alexandra Ross, Assistant News Editor

Two conservative student groups hosting controversial events at Pitt acquired funding for the events through outside organizations instead of seeking assistance from the University. 

College Republicans and Pitt’s Turning Point USA chapter ignited controversy after inviting Michael Knowles and Riley Gaines to speak at Pitt. College Republicans will host Knowles — who has called for the eradication of “transgenderism” — to debate “transgenderism and womanhood” in April. Turning Point USA hosted Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer, to speak against transgender women’s participation in women’s sports on Monday night. 

Turning Point USA’s national organization paid for Gaines’ appearance, according to a spokesperson for the organization. John Burtka, president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, confirmed that ISI provided full funding for the debate between Knowles and transgender scholar Deirdre McCloskey. 

In a “Statement Reaffirming Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community” on Instagram earlier this month, SGB members said they did not provide any funding to College Republicans or Turning Point USA for the events. 

Carson Hawk, allocations chairman for SGB, later clarified that SGB did not deny funds to either organization. According to Hawk, neither Turning Point USA nor College Republicans have submitted any allocations requests this year. University spokesperson Jared Stonesifer confirmed that Pitt did not assist in funding the events. 

Liliana Orozco, the president of Pitt’s Turning Point USA, and Dylan Mitchell, president of College Republicans, did not respond to questions about why they did not seek funding from SGB or Pitt for the events. 

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA’s national organization, confirmed that the organization provided funding to its Pitt chapter to host Gaines, “as is customary when a TPUSA chapter hosts an outside speaker and applies for a grant.” 

Kolvet said Turning Point USA sponsored Gaines’ appearance because her stance regarding transgender women’s participation in women’s sports is “more important than ever.”

“Just last week, World Athletics has banned trans-identified biological males from competing in female categories in international events,” Kolvet said. “This may be controversial at Pitt, but Ms. Gaines’ views are held by millions globally, and we believe it’s imperative that students are exposed to what she has to say.”

Burtka said ISI will host the debate between Knowles and McCloskey “to help students better understand and appreciate differing perspectives” on the topic of transgender identity.

“As an institution, we believe that every human being is equal in dignity and should be treated respectfully by their peers and impartially before the law,” Burtka said. “We host campus lectures and debates across the country to further these ideals and promote a robust understanding of American culture, politics and history.”