Article Originally Published by Ileana Garnand on North Texas Daily
A petition to remove the university’s Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter is circulating as students criticize the organization for incidents of alleged racism, homophobia and transphobia.
The petition, which had over 2,500 signatures Monday, was co-created by student organizations UNT GLAD, MUEVE and UNT College Democrats. The petition argues YCT has engaged in multiple statements and actions that directly conflict with the university’s definition of equity.
“We’re not asking for them to be removed because they’re conservatives,” Brett Davis, vice president of UNT Democrats said. “We’re going after them because they’re racist, homophobic and transphobic.”
The petition also calls for the implementation of a “3-Strike” policy. The proposal requires any student-led organization to be allowed to be formally reprimanded by the university through charter suspension. After three instances of reprimands, the organization would be permanently disbanded and barred from future reinstatement.
The university’s chapter of YCT was previously dissolved in 2005 after holding an event where students were awarded candy bars for ‘capturing’ people posing as undocumented immigrants. The organization was reinstated in the fall of 2019.
Student Activities manages the approval process for requests to register as a student organization.
“The process for the approval of new [or reinstated] student [organizations] follows the Student Organization Policy,” Director of Student Activities Christa Coffey said. “If a group requests approval and meets the criteria, they are approved.”
Since its return to campus, YCT has had several conflicts with other organizations, including those who serve minority groups.
“I believe that YCT should be removed from campus because I’m a queer person that goes to a minority-serving university,” GLAD President Ryan Semegran said. “There are students that specifically go to UNT because they’re branded as a liberal college that takes everybody and accepts everybody.”
On Oct. 11, 2019, YCT co-opted the celebration of National Coming Out Day by offering an event for students to “come out” as conservatives and enjoy snacks. Some students felt this event trivialized and dismissed the LGBTQ+ community, who, according to the petition, come out at the risk of being hated and even killed for who they are.
YCT also held an affirmative action bake sale with prices adjusted to students’ race and gender. White and Asian students were charged more than Black and Hispanic students, with Indigenous students listed as “free”.
Some students took issue with this because they believe it implies certain non-White races receive special treatment in educational and professional settings.
Another incident included a response to GLAD’s criticism of a now-deleted YCT tweet, which said, “pronouns in your twitter bio isn’t a personality trait.” A screenshot of the tweet is included in the petition.
YCT also insinuated in a now-deleted tweet that GLAD based its club on “having HIV.” YCT removed the member responsible for the latter message, former GLAD president and international studies major Aeon Wood said.
YCT’s Chairman Kelly Neidert released a statement on behalf of the organization on July 7 regarding students calling for their disbandment and the tweet regarding GLAD.
“As we have made clear before, the person responsible for that tweet was removed from the organization almost immediately due to a few different reasons,” Neidert said in the statement. “However, to say the tweet was ‘transphobic’ or ‘homophobic’ is absurd. The national GLAD entity’s primary focus is HIV awareness, and thus we believed that the UNT GLAD chapter would share that.”
A meeting between both organizations’ leadership was held as a result. It was initiated by an unidentified YCT member who Wood said, “expressed a want to try to smooth things over between our [organizations].” Neidert was also present.
Wood recounted the “over the top and unnecessary” peace treaty that was presented to the GLAD representatives, which offered to remove YCT’s Twitter reply if GLAD followed in suit. The treaty stated that YCT’s original tweet about pronouns would stay published.
“[The conversation] was all things along the lines of ‘I’m sorry for how what we said was interpreted,’ or how we ‘chose to be upset’ by things that were said,” Wood said. “There was no sincerity, and it was fairly obvious that they weren’t sorry for what was said, just sorry that they got called out on their lack of research and vocalized bigotry.”
In its statement, YCT called the “outrage” “unjustified” and “due to the conservative ideology that we follow.”
“For me and MUEVE, it has nothing to do with [YCT’s] values,” social media head for MUEVE and sophomore Angie Gonzales said. “It has nothing to do with their conservative standpoint or beliefs. but when it starts to affect other marginalized groups of people […] it becomes an issue.”
YCT also mentioned in their statement it has no affiliation with the previous chapter members involved in the 2005 incident which lead to their disbandment.
On July 10, theNorth Texas College Republicans released a statement saying that they do not condone the actions of YCT and emphasized the two organizations are not affiliated.
“I’m incredibly proud to call [North Texas College Republicans] the party across the aisle,” Davis said.
Student leaders from GLAD, MUEVE and UNT Democrats spoke with the director of Student Affairs on July 13 in a closed-door meeting. This followed President Neal Smatresk’s tweet saying the university is “looking into” YCT’s actions.
Neither YCT nor Kelly Neidert responded to requests for comment.
Featured illustration by Austin Banzon
Source: North Texas Daily