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UNT SGA holds silent sit-in protest during Board of Regents meeting on Thursday

UNT SGA holds silent sit-in protest during Board of Regents meeting on Thursday

UNT SGA holds silent sit-in protest during Board of Regents meeting on Thursday
November 14
20:01 2019

UNT student leaders from the Black Student Union, the National Association for Advancement of Colored People and the Student Government Association came together and held a silent sit-in at the Board of Regents meeting on Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m.

The sit-it was to protest for more diversity and inclusivity at UNT after former assistant general counsel Caitlin Sewell said the n-word at the “When Hate Comes to Campus” panel last week. Following her resignation, SGA, BSU and NAACP released a list of demands that included calling for a mandatory cultural competency course, racial awareness training, a focus on increasing the number of minority faculty, a focus on increasing the number of minority students and the allocation of more funding for the Multicultural Center.

Students met in the student organization space in the Union before the sit-in and prepared posters to hold since they would be silent throughout the entirety of the meeting.   

“I think it’s important to remember that, as a university and as a diverse university at that, we need to be including all different people,” business sophomore Tucker Fischbacher said. “I don’t think some of the board and people at UNT really understand the severity of that action. I encourage the students and faculty of UNT, wherever you are, that we are a community at UNT. Whether you’re an employee, student, grad student, whatever you are, we are all here and we need to be supporting all of our student body and making sure that all of our student body is heard and represented in our faculty and staff. ”  

Prior to the sit-in, Yolian Ogbu and Cameron Combs, presidents for SGA and BSU respectively, addressed the importance of remaining silent and resilient in front of Board of Regents.  

UNT SGA President Yolian Ogbu along with other supporters hold up a “Black Lives Matter” banner during a sit-in protest at a board of regents meeting on Nov. 14, 2019. Image by Ryan Cantrell

“We cannot speak,” said Ogbu. “This is a silent sit-in and we can be just as powerful with the representation of our bodies.” 

Students were also offered pieces of green tape to place over their mouths to enforce the importance of the silence of the sit-in. Ogbu said that the use of tape during silent protests came from having been used in former protests in the past and have been conducted by people outside of the university.  

“The tape is meant to symbolize the importance of the silent protest,” Ogbu said. “We’re sitting in. We’re not trying to disrupt the meeting, but we’re saying ‘Hey, we’re going to be quiet, but our physical presence is important here.’ I think it’s more of an emphasis on the fact that we just have a lot of people in the room that aren’t necessarily talking.” 

At 1 p.m., the protestors silently made their way to Union 332 where the Board of Regents meeting was being conducted. 

 UNT officials, such as President Smatresk, guided students to file in the room quietly.

“I think the climate here is great,” Smatresk said. “If you go to a lot of other universities, it doesn’t feel like this. We’ve always felt like family and the caring attribute of this campus is the thing that I am most proud of and will always be proud of.” 

Smatresk said that the UNT Faculty Senate is in favor for some of the demands created by student leaders regarding more trainings in diversity and inclusivity to create a better culture here at UNT.  

“We need to take this opportunity to reflect, engage in the conversations with each other that are crucial about what’s going wrong and what we can to do better,” Smatresk said.  

Throughout the meeting, while motions were presented to the board from representatives outside of the university, students remained quiet and held up the handmade posters to be on display for the board to witness.  

Smatresk, on numerous accounts, gave attention to the students protesting and even offered candy and a bowl of popcorn as the students continued to carry on in silence.  

“I think this is remarkable,” Smatresk said. “Quite seriously, I admire the commitment and actions from the students here today that are seeking equity and inclusivity for the campus.” 

Once the meeting ended, students filed out and resumed their activities for the remainder of the day.  

“The turnout was honestly amazing,” Combs said. “I was literally telling Yolian that I’m kind of in tears because this is beautiful, seeing all of these students support this cause and that they actually want inclusivity and diversity on campus.” 

SGA representatives helped guide the student traffic as students both left the meeting area and/or approached Smatresk with concerns about the community and atmosphere of UNT.  

SGA will hold a general student body meeting on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Union Lyceum. Additionally, Ogbu and other student leaders will address the Board of Regents during the meeting on Friday.

“I am so glad that it [the sit in] went well and really amazed how our community can come together, sadly enough, during crises,” Ogbu said. “The fact that the students came together like this and that we had such a great turnout really proved that people are wanting to see action happen.” 

Featured Image: UNT President Neal Smatresk speaks during a board of regents meeting while students conduct a sit-in protest on Nov. 14, 2019. Image by Ryan Cantrell

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Natalie Ochoa

Natalie Ochoa

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1 Comment

  1. JD
    JD November 15, 11:28

    What are the specific issues that SGA and the BSU have with UNT?

    Reply to this comment

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