Freedom of speech is not up for debate.
Though, if you are a member of the UT community when two weeks ago the College Democrats put up a banner depicting President Donald Trump as a KKK member, you may not be so sure.
After the initial fallout from the banner, and a student who has not been identified took it down without permission, UT President Sharon Gaber wrote in a letter to the school that she was disappointed in the actions the Dems took and would be hosting a town hall to discuss freedom of speech.
This was the wrong approach.
The student group explained that the reason they posted the banner was to get new members to join their organization and to foster a conversation around the racism that Trump has portrayed throughout his presidency.
The purpose of the banner was not to start a conversation about us having a right to say what we want, but rather to address the racist implications behind the rash policy decisions Trump has initiated in his year in office.
The conversation became a shit show.
The college republicans and college democrats were going back and forth arguing against each other and avoiding the actual issues.
The message the banner was trying to send was garbled in a mix of broad accusations ranging from “All republicans are white supremacists,” to “President Gaber doesn’t get offended by sexual assault,” all of which drastically miss the main point.
Everyone seemed to come with a different agenda, and they all had something to say. There was no order to the event and no consistency in the topic at hand.
We need to talk about racism in this country.
When the issue of racism in Trump’s presidency was brought up during the forum by UT alum and community activist Julian Mack, the conversation was immediately halted.
To add insult to injury, at the end of the of the town hall, the entire counseling center staff was available to speak to students.
Why would the assumption be that students would need counseling after an open-forum conversation about freedom of speech? We don’t need counseling, we need social justice.
Throughout her presidency, Gaber has been active in implementing diversity initiative on campus. She created the role of Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, which is currently held by Willie McKether.
However, her expressing her disappointment in the actions taken by the college democrats and sending the letter to the whole university was uncalled for.
Every year, the controversial group Created Equal comes to campus and displays graphic images of aborted fetus’ in Centennial Mall. Not only has she not sent an email warning of the event, Gaber has never expressed disappointment in this group publicly.
By sending this letter, Gaber has set a different precedent for commenting on controversial campus events. Her position as University President makes it appear that she speaks for the entire administration.
What made this banner different to elicit the opinion of the President of the university?
Today, at 7 p.m., the Young Americans for Liberty will have their first major campus event, hosting the executive director of Gun Owners of America Larry Pratt as a speaker to discuss how gun free zones should be disbarred.
We eagerly await Gaber’s opinion.
*An error was corrected in this editorial on 4/5/18. The editorial originally stated Willie McKether, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, was not at the forum, which was false. We regret these errors.