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SGA introduces resolution to enforce anti-hate speech rules on campus

SGA introduces resolution to enforce anti-hate speech rules on campus

SGA introduces resolution to enforce anti-hate speech rules on campus
April 07
16:33 2022

The Student Government Association introduced a resolution on Wednesday that, if passed, would ask the university to suspend any student organization engaging in transphobic hate speech or actions.

Let it be resolved that any UNT student organization that engages in hate speech, hate crimes, and/or violation of UNT policy through transphobic posts, statements and actions be immediately suspended to protect the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender students at UNT,” College of Music Senator Beige Cowell said.

S2022-R6, “Trans Existence is Not a Debate,” was written by Beige with co-sponsors Julian Yanas, a vocal studies student and member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council for the COM, and Samantha Cowell, a media arts freshman and Beige’s transgender younger sister.

The legislation is not enforceable by the senate itself and relies on the university to choose to follow it, said Beige.

“Resolutions are meant to affect the university matters, but we don’t have the oversight to make anybody do anything,” Beige said. “It’s more of a recommendation.”

This recommendation was more than one month in the making, Beige said.

“When that video from a UNT student about the posters being printed in the library, when that was going viral, I sent [President Devon Skinner] an email and asked, ‘what can we do about this?’” Beige said.

The video in question was posted by Young Conservatives of Texas President Kelly Neidart, showing a university student reacting to her and a friend looking at flyers advertising an upcoming YCT event, according to the resolution document. The event was centered around guest speaker Texas State House candidate Jeff Younger.

Neidart’s video and Younger’s invitation sparked an instant backlash from students and resulted in multiple protests both during and after the event due to Younger’s vocal platform against gender-affirming health care for transgender minors.

While Younger’s appearance on campus was upsetting to some, Beige said it was accompanied by YCT members allegedly harassing multiple transgender students online, something not protected in the university’s student code of conduct.

Included in the resolution were dozens of responses compiled from a survey Beige and Samantha created in late February titled “Survey for the Trans Community at UNT.”

While most of the 58 responses were posted anonymously, only those from students who consented to be in the document were included in the resolution.

After combing through the survey and filtering out repetitive answers, the responses were sorted into three categories: statements from self-identifying transgender students, statements from individuals with transgender loved ones and statements from individuals who did not have transgender loved ones and were not transgender.

“We decided to keep the [responses] we thought were introducing new experiences and aspects,” Beige said. “Every trans person experiences transphobia differently.”

Because co-sponsor Yanas was not present at the meeting, arts and design junior Kevin Ligons took their place at the front of the room to help Beige and Samantha read the 30-page document and its survey responses to the senate.

“It is incredibly stressful to not only be hated and discouraged on account of my identity by the entire world but to experience it on a college campus where I pay to attend because the campus admin allows it is abysmal,” Samantha said, reading out a response attributed to an anonymous respondent.

One student who chose to attach their name to their response was psychology senior Lilly Holley, a guest at SGA’s meeting. Signing their name was a way to stand in solidarity with the transgender community, said Holley.

“I included my name with my survey response because a lot of people can’t,” Holley said. “I’m in a safe position to be able to do so for the people who don’t feel safe enough to put their name.”

After all of the responses and the rest of the document were read, the senate moved into a period of questioning. One question from College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Senator Peyton McFarlain brought up the “weekly” complaints against YCT and what the Dean of Students office should do.

“I agree with you that we’re not doing enough,” McFarlain said.

Beige said the Dean of Students needs to suspend student organizations participating in hate speech.

“I just hope university administration, from the president to dean of students to anybody else who’s involved in this, will listen to the trans student voices that we have included in this document,” Beige said.

The resolution will be discussed further during the senate’s next meeting on April 13.

During the senate’s executive reports, Deputy Chief of Staff Bella Armenia also announced Eagle’s Nest and the Raupe Travel Grant had both reached $0 for the first time in 10 years. There were also discussions of who would serve on the organization’s summer session when the semester ends, something likely to be decided during the senate’s next meeting.

Featured Image: College of Music Senator Beige Cowell listens during a Student Government Association meeting on March 23, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Alex Reece

Alex Reece

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