North Texas Daily

Student protest calls for the removal of Young Conservatives of Texas

Student protest calls for the removal of Young Conservatives of Texas

Student protest calls for the removal of Young Conservatives of Texas
March 25
18:00 2022

Dozens of students gathered outside the Business Leadership Building Wednesday evening to call for the Young Conservatives of Texas to be removed from campus after the group’s controversial event held on March 2.

The protest was organized in response to some students feeling that the previous YCT event violated university policy 16.004, “Prohibition of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.” The March 2 event featured Texas House candidate Jeff Younger, whose platform condemns gender-affirming health care for transgender children.

The university has not clarified whether it has deemed YCT in violation of any policies.

“It’s a very intersectional issue for me,” said Era Yousuf, a protestor and psychological sciences graduate student. “Everything that has to do with the current state of actions against trans rights also ties back into a deeper issue of human rights and white supremacy, and it is important to me that I try to do something to improve the quality of life for at least one other oppressed party, just even if it’s like a little bit.”

The protesters brought various signs and flags displaying their support of the LGBTQ+ community. The crowd started out between Eagle Landing and the BLB before centering itself around the walls just outside of an ongoing YCT event. The crowds’ chants, including “trans rights are human rights” and “YCT needs accountability,” could be heard from inside the building during the meeting.

Protestors hold flags at the protest on March 23, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

“I’m a proponent of free speech and I think it’s much nicer that they’re gathering and doing that while also allowing us to have our meeting,” YCT President Stephen Moitz said. “Which is obviously not what we saw at our last meeting, which is very unfortunate.”

YCT required attendees to display their student IDs and let in non-members at its discretion. The meeting itself focused on censorship on college campuses and in the media. Despite this topic, certain media outlets including the North Texas Daily and the Denton Record-Chronicle were not allowed inside the meeting.

“No media,” Moitz said. “We didn’t want photographers and stuff in there just because we don’t really trust it.”

This “no media” rule did not apply to Texas Tribune reporter Kate McGee, who was allowed into the meeting. Freelance journalist Alex Kelly was also granted access to the event.

Kelly provided the Daily with an audio recording of the full meeting, in which Moitz can be heard discussing the current conflict in Ukraine and trans issues. Moitz read an excerpt from an article detailing a trans woman who was prevented from leaving Ukraine after being forced to undress and was searched by Ukrainian guards.

“This is what happens when you go to war, right?” Moitz said during the meeting. “Men actually got to be men and women got to be women. So I thought this was kind of a funny, funny little article.”

There was a large security presence inside the BLB for the event, as UNT Police Department officers patrolled the meeting room, surrounding hallways, many entrances to the BLB and the building’s roof. The university police department attempted to reach out to the protest organizers to better coordinate their efforts, UNT PD Captain Jeremy Polk said.

“If we know there’s going to be conflict, we always try to reach out to both sides, we do that religiously,” Polk said. “We are always in contact with both sides if it’s a two-sided thing or if it’s maybe just one side or whatever.”

YCT members were urged by the police to leave from the opposite end of the building as the protesters and the attendees filed out of the building in phases. Kelly Neidert, former YCT president, was escorted out of the building by five police officers. Following the March 2 YCT event, Neidert reportedly hid in a janitorial closet from protesters shortly before entering a UNT PD vehicle that struck a student protester.

Protestors use noisemakers at the protest on March 23, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

Some students at the Wednesday protest said they felt that UNT PD’s involved presence is inappropriate and makes it difficult for a solution to be found.

“I myself have tried to ask if we can consider other options besides the sitting down with police and having a discussion [idea] that Neal proposed but [my questions] were dismissed,” protestor and MUEVE President Edith Campa said.

While the protest’s online poster read “Ban YCT,” to some protestors, the real solution is more complex. While some feel that YCT should be removed from campus, others worry that it could set a dangerous precedent for other student organizations.

“I think that the students who are calling for officially banning YCT from campus are admirable in their spirit, but I honestly don’t believe that it’s the right move for making this campus a safer environment for queer and trans people,” said Javier Weems, chair of the Younger Democratic Socialists of America and an officer of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “This type of action is a two-way street, and if it does go through, who’s to say what student organization is banned next? It’s a dangerous precedent.”

While addressing student protestors on March 10, President Neal Smatresk said a discussion panel would be held between concerned students and university administration after spring break. As of March 24, nothing regarding the ongoing campus controversy has been announced by the university.

“All UNT students deserve to feel safe on our campus,” University Program Council President Gracie Davis said. “Our trans and nonbinary students deserve that. So while I can hope that changes will be implemented, I have lost so much faith in the administration concerning this.”

Featured Image: Protesters gather between Eagle Landing and the BLB on March 23, 2022. Photo by Matt Iaia

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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