Young Conservatives of Texas Prevented from Passing Out Flyers at Campus Event

Blog / June 20, 2009

Officials at the University of Texas at Austin are defending their actions following a minor confrontation between school officials and members of the Young Conservatives of Texas that has left the latter group decrying censorship.

On Tuesday, YCT members took aim at a Diversity Training Program taking part on campus as part of the annual Summer Orientation program for incoming freshmen students. YCT contends that such diversity programs represent a radical agenda that devalues the individual and tries to indoctrinate students in a group consciousness system that many students may not wish to be a part of.

Members showed up outside the auditorium where the seminar was to take place with flyers and attempted to pass them out before being prevented by staff.

“We were telling the freshman to enjoy the show and passing out flyers when suddenly, two members of the New Student Services Department came over to us and told us to stop,” says Brianna Becker, Secretary of the YCT group at UT. “One orientation leader even carried a broken table leg with him to physically restrict us from talking to the freshman as they walked by.”

Becker and other said they were particularly surprised by the use of the blunt object for crowd control, although they say that at no time was it used in a threatening manner.

UT administrators say the event was minor and the YCT reaction was over-the-top.

“The University of Texas at Austin supports intellectual exchange, the diversity of thought and freedom of speech,” said Dr. Soncia Reagans-Lilly, senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students. She said she spoke with staff about the incident and they were in compliance with the law.

The concern of UT was not about YCT airing their opinions, but the concern that they were delaying the event.

“There were 1,200 students that needed to be seated on time,” Reagans-Lilly said. “The students who were distributing flyers were asked not to leave the scene, but to move back so they would not impede the flow” of students into the auditorium.

YCT members say that they were in no way delaying freshman from entering the diversity program, nor were they inciting any type of civil disobedience in regards to attending the program.

The device which YCT referred to as a “broken table leg” was one of several “way-finders” used by leaders of the program to help guide students along. Reagans-Lilly likened it to a device used by tour guides to help individual groups stay together in crowded locations.

“This was not used as a tool to threaten or create a hostile environment,” she said.

Diversity Training

Conservative groups have long taken aim at diversity programs, which they say go beyond the agenda of promoting tolerance to an agenda that promotes class and race division and waters down things which would otherwise unify all students.

“We believe that each person should be judged on the content of their character, not by which racial, ethnic, gender, religious, or sexual group or class you belong to,” said Dustin Matocha, YCT-UT chairman. “YCT believes that America is strongest when there is one common, assimilated American culture that all of us share.

“It is counter-productive to separate people into races or other groups because doing so only perpetrates the problems of racism, sexism, or religious hatred that ‘Diversity’ is supposed to fix. All it does is train people to see race, to see gender, and to see ethnicity more so than they ever would if they just treated people as individuals,” he said.

Reagans-Lilly, naturally, sees it differently. She described the program as an “introduction to social identities.” The training covers different religions, socio-economic groups and promotes better understanding of them.

“Everybody has an identity and we should value and appreciate and respect that identity,” she said. Specifically asked about the charges that such a program was downplaying the role of individuals in society, she said that was also part of the broader discussion of the differences new students would face in the college environment.

The training is not mandatory, Reagans-Lilly said, because students are not required to attend freshman orientation. But for those who do, the training is a required part of the program.

Matocha says that the agenda focuses only on the values of minority, homosexual or liberal groups at the expense of others.

“We feel UT is indoctrinating students with a liberal agenda,” Matocha said. “Two, we feel that if UT truly bought-in to the idea of tolerance, multi-culturalism, and diversity, then why aren’t white, conservative Christians recognized as a group when there are obviously many white, conservative Christians in America? It’s as if UT expects us to feel guilty and apologize for being conservative, or being white, or being a Christian.”

TRN was unable to verify the content of the program and whether or not it supported Matocha’s claims. Similar contentions have been made in the past at UT and other universities. The University of Texas, furthermore, has multiple offices that deal with minority and liberal issues under the rubric of “diversity” but like many other institutions does not have similar offices which cater to Anglo students.