Letter to the Editor: Campus free speech: damaging remarks from Pratt

April 25, 2018

I am writing this letter to the IC to address some of the events forgotten from Larry Pratt’s speech on campus, as invited by the UT chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.


In response to the allegations that the College Democrats’ banner hindered inclusivity on campus, I would say that Larry Pratt and the comments he made were far more damaging.


When Pratt was confronted with a question about the origins of why there was a need for the Second Amendment in the first place and then a very personal story was told about the student’s struggle with suicide, Mr. Pratt responded with a less than professional response, which discouraged me from sharing a similar experience.


My freshman year, I would have taken any chance to end my life, and the fact that UT is a gun-free zone prevented my access to those weapons, saving me. This man’s response to that same story was, “Let me reassure you, if you really wanted to end your life, you would have,” then implied that the student that shared his story did not have the heart to kill himself by talking about his “moral makeup.”


He did not stop there. He then went on to list ways that this student could have killed himself without a gun, recommending pills, rope, a knife and exhaust.


This response, aside from being hurtful, made me want to avoid sharing my story to back up this student’s claim of a common experience. Not to mention, after this student had asked his question, the person in front of me was laughing.


This creates a far less inclusive campus than a banner hung in the Student Union criticizing the views of the president. The speaker also had the nerve to tell the audience, “You protect that light switch with a gun,” after an audience member accidentally turned out the lights leaning against the wall.


Then, the audience member was so rudely pushed out the room by a man who walked all the way from the front row on the other side of the room. I would like to know how that is providing an inclusive environment.


Larry Pratt also made a claim that black people are responsible for crime, claiming the incarceration rates were indicative of the perpetrators of crime. And to support my argument that his belief is a racist one, he also denied the concept that criminal activity was more likely based on socioeconomic status, in which black Americans disproportionately occupy the lower levels, the result of historical systemic oppression.


 Larry Pratt denied all claims that black Americans faced oppression by claiming that they needed only to follow the example of the Deacons for Defense.


Lastly, I was upset by a statement made by a community member in the audience telling a speaker in the audience that he needed, “to go to an insane asylum.”


That comment did not provide an inclusive environment for any person in the audience. This man being on campus did nothing to promote inclusivity.


He personally attacked speakers in the audience, and audience members attacked people asking questions critical of the invited speaker.


I fail to see how this event was any more “inclusive” than a banner with POTUS’ true beliefs on display, and why President Gaber felt the need to send a campus-wide email for one and not the other.


—Anonymous UT student

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