Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.
The settlement between UT and Speech First, a national free-speech group, has resulted in disbanding the Campus Climate Reporting Team, known as CCRT. Some call this action of getting rid of a group that allows students to report derogatory graffiti, bias, harassment and hostile classroom environments directly to the University for further investigation to be a detriment to speech and a safe environment on the UT campus. I would argue on the contrary.
The CCRT’s operation was to gather student reports of discrimination or hostility and then investigate or punish accordingly, but who decides what constitutes discrimination or hostility? The definition of these incidents varies among different individuals as there is no established guideline. This has the potential to punish students for unpopular opinions among their peers, even if the opinions are not hostile or discriminatory. The CCRT treats students like children by trying to maintain social order rather than exposing students to different ideas to create ideological discomfort.
The very notion that UT attempted to regulate speech is a sign that the University and, to an extent, some students do not have full trust that civility can occur while practicing our First Amendment rights on campus. The CCRT hindered free speech rights by insinuating some opinions would be punishable by the University. UT has a diverse campus with thousands of students from all walks of life, and it is a disservice to students to regulate or monitor speech since part of the college experience involves interacting with challenging views.
The University of Texas has genuine incidents of discrimination, harassment and hostility, and these occurrences must be dealt with accordingly. But regulating student speech harms students and inhibits their rights. I agree with the settlement in ridding the CCRT, as the University should promote free student speech instead of discouraging it. I love The University of Texas and I wish to see it thrive, but its students cannot develop and prepare for the real world when personal freedoms are surrendered for just a bit of security.
Emmanuel Ramirez is a radio-television-film senior from Dallas, Texas.