In wake of Fuentes visit, StuGov candidates share different views on addressing speech


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Nicholas Fuentes addresses a crowd at East Hall at Iowa State on Wednesday, March 6. The Iowa State Police Department had Fuentes leave the room because he did not have the space reserved. Fuentes moved his speech to the “free speech zone”. Fuentes live-streamed on Periscope during this event.

Emily Berch

After white nationalist Nick Fuentes visited Iowa State’s campus Wednesday night, multiple student organizations have taken steps to distance themselves from the event.

Now, one Student Government candidate is calling for action.

Benjamin Whittington, a candidate for Student Government president, announced in a Facebook post Sunday night that he would “do whatever it takes to remove white supremacy and discrimination from Iowa State University campus. Even if that means disbanding organizations.”

Turning Point USA, which does not have an official Iowa State chapter, and College Republicans are the two organizations Fuentes has associated with organizing the event. Whittington was the president of Turning Point’s former chapter at Iowa State but disbanded the organization during the fall 2018 semester.

College Republicans and Turning Point have both denied affiliation with the event.

When contacted for further comment regarding his Facebook post, Whittington released a statement saying his campaign “wholeheartedly supports free speech,” but also condemns “white nationalism and discrimination.”

“If campus organizations are tied to white nationalism and or discrimination and harassment, they should be fully prepared for consequences,” Whittington wrote in the statement. “The Whittington-Michelotti team will do everything in their power to lobby within Student Government for the condemnation of that club, and its actions. As a democracy, Student Government will ultimately decide what consequences should take place, when that time comes.”

Whittington and his running mate Annaliessa Michelotti both protested Fuentes at his event. 

Vice President Juan Bibiloni said the most Student Government could would be a “censure or condemnation bill from the Senate which really isn’t a power of the President and is moreso something the Senate does but the president could push for.”

Bibiloni said a president’s other option would be to veto funding requests from officially recognized student organizations, but Student Government already has a policy to not fund organizations “that receive money from or endorse political parties, organizations, etc.,” such as College Republicans.

Presidential candidate Austin Graber, whose running mate Vishesh Bhatia protested Fuentes Wednesday night, said he disagrees with Whittington’s solution and believes more speech is the solution.

“You must fight discriminatory speech with good speech,” Graber said. “For instance, when Nick Fuentes came to campus there was a counter protest of over 30 people showing the speaker that here at Iowa State we stand for and promote diversity and inclusion. This made the speaker flop and exposed him for what he was trying to promote.”

Graber also said he believes allowing the Student Government executive branch to decide which organizations can exist on campus would “create a very bad precedent.”

Cody Woodruff, presidential candidate, did not specifically address the idea of disbandment when asked for a statement.

“We should drown out the lonely voices of hate with a unified voice of love,” Woodruff wrote in his statement. “Every student is welcomed on this campus, and we should spread a powerful message by standing together and showing we are a unified community and one Cyclone family.”