North Texas Daily

Donald Trump Jr. event over freedom of speech bars media from attending

Donald Trump Jr. event over freedom of speech bars media from attending

October 04
23:26 2017

UNT declined to issue press passes to the North Texas Daily and the Denton Record-Chronicle for a Kuehne Speakers Series event featuring Donald Trump Jr., son of President Donald Trump.

The topic of Trump Jr.’s speech on Oct. 24 is freedom of speech.

A copy of the executed contract between the university and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2016-2017 season shows the contract permitted local media to report on the event but not to record audio.

“The Kuehne Speaker Series has historically been open only to the guests of table sponsors,” UNT spokesperson Kelley Reese stated in an email to the Daily on Monday. “This year’s series events will be no different.”

In response to attempts from the Daily to contact department heads and deans who contributed to the Kuehne series last year, university staff said they had been directed not to speak with the media.

According to documents acquired by the Daily, 23 UNT departments contributed a total of $132,500 to the 2016-2017 Kuehne Speaker Series. The season’s contributions totaled over $1 million. While the university did not disclose names of individuals or organizations which donated, the highest donation was $125,000 from an individual.

Reese said the contributions from UNT came largely from discretionary funds.

The series has raised $40,000 so far for the 2017-2018 season, with a total of $395,000 currently pledged.

A Dallas Morning News article published Wednesday cited emails between UNT President Neal Smatresk and faculty in which Smatresk revealed he was making an effort to stop Trump Jr. from speaking.

“While it is part of our educational mission to present speakers having various viewpoints and beliefs, it isn’t surprising that some members of our faculty have strong opinions about the selection of this speaker and chose to express their viewpoints,” Smatresk said in relation to his emails.

Cost of Speakers

Trump Jr. is being paid $100,000 for the event, more than double the fee for the speakers in the 2016-2017 season.

Speaker contracts obtained by the Daily show Giuliani spoke in the series for $35,500 in October 2016. Fox News and Business journalist Melissa Francis and Fox Business journalist Charles Gasparino spoke for fees of $30,000 and $29,500, respectively, in 2017. Emails obtained by the Daily between organizers show the series spent $50,000 on Richard W. Fisher, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, in 2015.

The Washington Post reported in September that Trump Jr.’s $100,000 fee would be double what he received before his father became president.

Over 100 UNT faculty members have signed an open letter denouncing the event and calling for the UNT Board of Regents to rescind Trump Jr’s invitation. The letter states Trump Jr. does not represent the values of UNT and the community.

Faculty Senate Resolution

The UNT Faculty Senate Executive Committee passed a motion to bring up a resolution concerning the selection of university-wide branded speakers at next week’s faculty senate meeting.

This proposed resolution, which has not yet been passed, comes in response to Trump Jr. speaking as part of the Kuehne Series. The resolution focuses on making the process of selecting speakers more transparent and involved.

The motion passed with a 6-1 vote.

Faculty Senate Vice Chair Sheri Broyles said the resolution is not meant to shut down one side of the conversation, but aimed to protect UNT’s reputation. The committee maintained throughout the meeting UNT encourages and supports diversity and free speech rights.

If discussed and adopted by the full faculty senate, this resolution will stand for all speakers who are associated with the university brand.

About the series

The Kuehne series is named after UNT alumnus Ernie Kuehne, and has a history of inviting conservative speakers. Tickets to the Kuehne series event are only available as sponsorships, with the lowest cost being a $5,000 annual sponsorship for an eight-person table.

“The Kuehne speaker series is not designed as a speaker series for students,” Leliaert said. “It’s designed to raise money for student scholarships, so it is funded and attended by the donors and table sponsors.”

UNT spokesperson Deborah Leliaert said the series has raised $1.65 million to support student scholarships since its inception. Starting this year, the Kuehne series will contribute $50,000 toward UNT scholarships for National Merit Scholars.

Staff writer Celeste Gracia contributed to this report.

Featured Image: Donald Trump Jr. File

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Sarah Sarder and Kayla Davis

Sarah Sarder and Kayla Davis

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  1. Prof Mitchell
    Prof Mitchell October 05, 20:51

    Excellent reporting! Great that you requested so many documents!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Upset UNT faculty
    Upset UNT faculty October 06, 12:31

    You should contact Hannah Wise and Mike Wilson at the Dallas News: they attended the UNT Kuehne Series in 2016 when Giuliani was the speaker. If they attended using press passes, then you’ve been lied to.

    Reply to this comment
  3. McKee
    McKee October 06, 15:22

    If a faculty member attends, are they going to confiscate that person’s phone? If not, I’ll gladly attend if a member of the press pays my admission. And I have a recorder on my phone.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Mark
    Mark October 07, 15:06

    Can you find out which departments are buying tickets? A nu
    Her did for past speakerz.

    Reply to this comment

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