Starting a college organization is never easy, but starting a conservative organization—Young Conservatives of Texas, to be precise—has proven to be particularly hard at the University of North Texas.
There are many staff, students, and perhaps even those in administration who seem to be against our message. Our freedom of speech is under fire, with rumors that the Student Government Association is looking to put policies in place that would essentially revoke the free-speech rights that were reaffirmed to public universities through the passage of Senate Bill 18—which YCT representatives gave supportive testimony for at the Senate hearing—and Trump’s executive order.
Young Conservatives of Texas is an organization founded by Steve Munisteri in 1980. YCT chapters across the state participate in a variety of activities, including campaigning, political activism, informing the general public on a variety of political topics, and much more.
The University of North Texas chapter has hit many snags while trying to start up. We are often told—not asked—to stop and/or leave while we are out tabling for new members, no matter where we are or how we are tabling. The first time this happened, we were in our student union building. We set up a small table by the entrance with flyers, stickers, and a sign-up sheet. The student union workers told us that we were breaking the solicitation policy since we were approaching students. The policy states, “’Solicitation’ is defined as the requesting of a University community member’s time or resources for the betterment of another individual or group.” That’s a pretty broad definition of solicitation and not a very accurate one.
We were also kicked out of our student union building on Constitution Day when we were standing around wishing people a happy Constitution Day and taking sign-ups. We were first told that we weren’t in a free-speech zone and that we had to leave. When we refused to move, we were told that we were soliciting and that it wasn’t allowed. I explained to the student union worker that we were letting students approach us and that we only talked to them if they expressed interest in joining first. However, we were still told that we were not supposed to be getting contact information, even if the students offered it. In other words, YCT was told not to accept contact information from students who willingly offer it without being asked because that is “soliciting.”
Keeping all of this information in mind, our group made the decision that tabling outside would be best, as universities have the least amount of say over what happens on campus grounds. A few of us sat outside of a residence hall/cafeteria with our banner, and after about two minutes, student workers from the hall came outside to tell us that we were breaking policy and needed to leave. I happened to have printed copies of the policies with us, so I pulled them out to show the student worker that we were not, in fact, breaking policy. The residence hall employees decided to argue, however, and say that the residence hall is privately owned,7 while the rest of the university is public. Although this is completely inaccurate, I pointed out that we weren’t even inside the residence hall with our sign, so why would that apply to us? The reply I received was, “Students need their safe spaces.” After demanding to see the policy that states people cannot sit outside of a cafeteria, we finally were told that the policy is no longer in effect.
Although we are constantly shut down by inaccurate policy enforcement, we refuse to give up. What started five weeks ago as one person has turned into 60 people, and our numbers continue to grow. We want to spread conservatism throughout our university and let other like-minded people know that they are not alone.
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