In the wake of recent allegations against members of Turning Point USA’s University of New Hampshire (UNH) chapter that claim harassment of transgender students on campus, Chaplain and Executive Director Larry Brickner-Wood of the Waysmeet Center responded that “several” students have reported such incidents to him over the two weeks leading up to Turning Point’s Oct. 24 “Culture War” event.
Brickner-Wood, who has served at the Center for nearly 22 years, told The New Hampshire on Nov. 6 that he has attempted to help affected students who approached him by “listening” to their stories and helping them “process” the incident. He also assisted in directing the students to other organizations and resources for further help, all work that the director said is work he and the rest of the center “typically do.”
Brickner-Wood declined to elaborate to The New Hampshire about the types of harassment the students said they allegedly received, saying that he does not “want to speak for them…it’s not my place to do that.” He did, however, express sympathy for the affected students.
“…I know folks when they’ve been impacted and traumatized and affected, I know what that looks like and feels like,” he said. “I don’t need to disclose the details; it just traumatizes them again.”
When asked about how the students knew that the harassment came from members of Turning Point, Brickner-Wood said he did not know if the students knew precisely whether the perpetrators were from the local chapter or national organization but said they all arose from alleged incidents with Turning Point members. He added that he heard the members accused of the harassment were “more aggressive than the students themselves.”
“Part of me has a ‘social justice advocate,’ part of me says, ‘why does that matter,’” he added. “An organization is invited to be on campus, and so we’re responsible for whoever comes here; so, if our invited guest harassed people, does it really matter if they’re students or staff? [In] fact, I’d be even shocked if paid staff-people behave[d] that way, but I’m told that they did…but it doesn’t matter to me. The student chapter and the national organization are aligned, so they’re responsible for each other’s actions.”
The director said he has not been alerted to similar claims in the days following the event, but stressed that he is not “the best person to ask” and recommended that those seeking more information on these and other related allegations to reach out to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), as well as organizations like UNH Alliance or Trans UNH, who Brickner-Wood said would be more likely to have heard of such incidents.
The New Hampshire reached out to OMSA Director Lu Ferrell for additional information on the allegations. Ferrell did not respond to requests for comment prior to deadline.
Brickner-Wood added that he has not been alerted to any additional allegations or any impending investigations or responses from local police, including UNH and Durham Police, but he expressed confidence that they would be “doing something” about it, calling both departments “remarkable.”
While reflecting on the situation, Brickner-Wood said that, despite the seriousness of the allegations, he would not go and “extrapolate” or “jump” to negative conclusions regarding campus climate because of the incidents. He also stressed that it should not be symbolic of a worsening campus climate or a knock again the efforts of others in the community to improve it.
“…I think there’s a lot of amazing work done by people to make our climate better and better – from staff, faculty, students, community members – and I think that’s good effort and…I think it makes a difference,” he said. “So, particular incidents can happen that aren’t necessarily indicative of a general trend, but they happen; and to the individuals they happen to, they’re very painful, very traumatic, so you never want to minimize the incidents.
“But I’m not sure it means that our overall climate is bad; I don’t believe that it is,” he added. “I think it points out that everybody, every community always has places of awareness and ways to work on things, even when we think we’re moving forward.”
The Oct. 24 “Culture War” event, located in the Memorial Union Building (MUB) Granite State Room, featured a packed house, as well as speakers Charlie Kirk, the founder and head of Turning Point USA, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a frequent defender of President Donald Trump who has served in the Senate since 2011. The event, as previously reported by The New Hampshire, centered on a conversation between Kirk and Paul in which they decried and condemned American-based socialism and nationalism movements; criticized of the “hypocrisy” of the Democratic party concerning the 2020 race; and discussed topics such as the Second Amendment, taxes, the impeachment inquiry against the president, and the current state of American military efforts in the Middle East.