UT’s Young Americans for Liberty posted a video on their Facebook page of Jessica Harker, the Independent Collegian’s former Opinion Editor, tearing down UT YAL sponsored event fliers in the Lancelot Thompson Student Union on the evening of April 3rd.
The fliers advertised an upcoming event with Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America who advocates for the elimination of gun free zones.
Previous to last night's events, the Independent Collegian staff was talking in the office about the excessive amounts of flyers and how they had been removed previously.
“Culprit number one!” UT YAL wrote above a video of Harker tearing down the posters, approaching the camera and whispering, “do something.”
Jori Schlievert, UT YAL Chapter President and Recruitment Director, recorded the video.
“We can get over fliers being taken down,” Schlievert said. “But it was definitely unnecessary and an intimidation tactic."
She said their group protects everyones’ rights and wouldn’t tear down other peoples’ fliers.
Community members weighed in via social media criticizing Harker’s act.
Areeba Shah, the Independent Collegian’s Editor-in-Chief, released a subsequent statement.
“I along with our entire staff, am deeply disturbed by the actions of one of our editors. We, as a paper, pride ourselves on expressing our freedom of speech, and it is our responsibility to protect every individual’s right to do the same,” Shah wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook page.
“As of this morning, the editor in question is no longer affiliated with the IC,” the post stated.
Erin Gariepy, the Independent Collegian’s Faculty Advisor, called the incident “a valuable learning experience.”
“Our mission is to educate and train young journalists,” Gariepy said. “Learning how to handle unfortunate situations helps them prepare for their career and reinforces the importance of Freedom of Speech.”
Lora Parent, Collegian Media Foundation’s Board Chair, described the “rights and responsibilities that come along with delivering…content.”
“While we are not affiliated with the UT administration, we adhere to… ‘free-speech’ values, ” Parent wrote.
“The decision to cut ties with Jessica was not easy, but it was right,” Parent added. “We need to protect our rights to freely express ourselves and respect when there are opinions and values that don’t align with our own. “
Harker declined to comment.