YCT sends letter to Fenves concerning legal action against the University

Will Clark

The University will not take any action against the Young Conservatives of Texas or its members for its affirmative action bake sale last week, J.B. Bird, director of media relations for the University, said in an email. 

“The University does not and will not take any punitive action against an organization or its members for exercising their constitutional right to free speech,” Bird said in the email. “The right to freely express views is vital to the health of our university even if some find that expression offensive or disrespectful. For this reason, UT will continue to protect students and student organizations in the exercise of their free speech rights.”

Tonight, Student Government is voting on legislation to disband YCT which states the University must take “punitive action” against the organization to prevent future “
incidents of bias” from occurring at UT. The legislation references a petition calling for YCT’s suspension which gained more than 800 signatures. 

YCT sent a letter to UT President Gregory Fenves Tuesday stating their intent to take legal action against the University if any “punitive action” is taken against the group.

“University employees have attacked YCT-UT, calling it a ‘racist’ organization because we speak out against policies that distinguish amongst students on the basis of race,” Casteñeda wrote. “[The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution] protects more than just speech that is approved by the UT administration.”

Casteñeda cited University Code 13-204 (b)(2), which states: “To make an argument for or against the substance of any political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic idea is not verbal harassment, even if some listeners are offended by the argument or idea.”

The legislation, on the other hand, claims UT has used protection of freedom of speech in the past as an excuse for inaction during similar events.  

“UT often claims that its failure to act is in order to protect freedom of speech,” the legislation reads, “yet other universities both public and private do choose to act when similar incidents of bias occur.”

The legislation also calls for a policy to handle similar incidents in the future.

SG President Kevin Helgren emphasized that SG legislation is not binding. 

“Passing legislation through Student Government does not mean that the University is required to act on it,” Helgren said.

Casteñeda said in the letter that the University has treated YCT protests differently because the group took a conservative stance and that University employees have made efforts to disband or punish YCT.

“When YCT-UT conducts conservative demonstrations, administration officials openly condemn our speech and encourage angry and violent mobs to attempt to interfere with our events,” Casteñeda wrote. “Since YCT-UT’s ‘Affirmative Action Bake Sale’ demonstration last week there have been efforts by University employees and University-sanctioned entities to disband YCT-UT and punish its members on account of our speech.”