A speech panel titled “When Hate Comes to Campus: Free Speech” was held at the University of North Texas last week. What was intended to be a learning experience for us all devolved into toxicity and victimhood.
The panel opened with a speech by Caitlin Sewell, a lawyer on the university’s general counsel. Ms. Sewell discussed the First Amendment and Texas Senate Bill 18 by going over examples of what is protected by free speech and what is not. In one example of what is protected, she decided to use a racial epithet in its entirety. Later in her speech, however, she chose to censor an expletive by using the term “f-word.”
The students in the audience were not fond of these choices made by Ms. Sewell. Some jumped out of their seats to yell, and one student accused the speaker of “oppressing her.” The president of the student government, Yolian Ogbu, also had quite a bit to say on the matter, claiming that “we can think of a million words to harass black people, brown people … but we can’t even think of a single word to do that for white people. Why? Because we are living in a white supremacist system.”
The students rallied behind these outlandish claims made by Ms. Ogbu, and quite a few students on social media pushed for Ms. Sewell to be fired. She resigned the next day.
This is a perfect example of the toxicity of the “cancel culture” that society has created. Ms. Sewell could have picked a more universal or less inflammatory example, but her words were not backed by racism. She was merely using the epithet as an educational example.
The idea that Ms. Sewell should have to resign over this matter is completely absurd. The students, fueled by our Student Government Association, painted themselves to be the victims of a situation that was supposed to be a learning moment. The reality of the situation is that Ms. Sewell has unfairly become the victim of cancel culture.
The truth about words is that they are not offensive. People make the choice of whether or not to be offended. It is clear that at UNT, many students have chosen to be offended.
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