The UT chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas have canceled a controversial mock immigration “sting” planned for Wednesday after the event was denounced by University officials, including President William Powers Jr.
“After the University president and the vice president for diversity and community engagement released statements denouncing the event we planned as violating the University's honor code, I spoke with our chapters members, and they are both concerned that the University will retaliate against them and that the protest against the event could create a safety issue for our volunteers,” YCT Chairman Lorenzo Garcia said in a statement.
Gregory Vincent, vice president for the division of diversity and community engagement, said the decision to cancel the event was wise and that concerns of YCT volunteer safety and University retaliation are “completely unfounded.”
“I’m just very proud of our students for voicing their protest in a respectful, civil way and I’m confident that they will continue to do that,” Vincent said. “I know that I speak on behalf of President Powers and the entire University of Texas community that we absolutely respect everybody’s freedom of speech right and we expect all members of the community to exercise those rights in a respectful way.”
Garcia said students should be able to speak freely regardless of their political affiliations.
"President Obama wants to address this issue during his final term and students on college campuses, conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, should not be silenced when they attempt to make their voices heard about an issue that is so important to our futures," Garcia said.
Powers said the University honors the right of free speech for all students on campus.
“We welcome the Young Conservatives’ decision and look forward to that group being part of a thoughtful discussion about the difficult questions our nation faces regarding immigration,” Powers said in a statement.
Garcia said certain aspects of the event were misguided and the event was intended to maximize attention.
“I acknowledge that decision to include issuing $25 gift cards during the event was misguided and that the idea for the event was intentionally over-the-top in order to get attention for the subject,” Garcia said. “It is a simple fact that illegal immigration is a concern in this country and that it is one we must face.”
Garcia said the public response to the event and personal attacks he received were shocking.
“Opponents of YCT have claimed that I am being used as a front man,” Garcia said. “I have been called an ‘Uncle Tom.’ I have received e-mails and comments via social media filled with obscenity. The reactions of some who claim that YCT is creating a demeaning or degrading environment on campus have been truly disgraceful.”