Conservative students at the University of North Texas expressed concern for their safety after a barrage of threats—and a hex—from an extreme-left coalition. They expressed they would like a statement from the university supporting their right to exist, freedom of speech, and for the extreme-left to show them “civility” and understand freedom of speech.
Earlier this month, an extreme-left coalition of student organizations—led by the College Democrats—launched a petition to ban the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) from taxpayer-funded University of North Texas (UNT). Threats of violence have also been leveled at the organization and its chairwoman, Kelly Neidert. Neidert was also threatened with doxxing (an attempt to publish private information on the internet) and a witch’s hex.
“I’ve been getting harassed since … September,” Neidert said in an interview with Texas Scorecard. “I would say that I’ve definitely received a lot of the threats.”
“I’ve haven’t had people directly threaten me, like Kelly,” said Vice Chairman Stephen Tykoski. “Now, people have threatened the YCT and YCT Austin [organizations]. Direct threats [against] the organization. Therefore, I am threatened by that.”
With all of the violent threats the group has received lately, they were asked if they would feel safe going to classes on campus right now.
“No. I would do it, though,” Neidert said. “Maybe. Probably no,” Tykoski answered. “No.” Another member said ‘yes’ because his name is not known.
They were also asked if they felt UNT was a safe or hostile learning environment.
“I feel worried going back to campus, especially, like I said, it’s an election year,” Neidert said. “I don’t want anybody to take that out on me, depending on the outcome. It doesn’t feel as safe as it did this past spring or fall before we left, for sure.”
“It does feel a little more hostile,” Tykoski agreed, adding that UNT appears to be “sitting on the sidelines” of the conflict between the extreme-left coalition and YCT at UNT. “Which is fair; however, if that translates into physical threats and physical violence in the upcoming school year, and they continue to be on the sidelines—which is possible—that’s obviously a huge issue.”
“But if President Trump wins … yeah, I can absolutely see some of these people taking out their anger on us.”
UNT College Democrats issued a statement Saturday condemning the attempt to dox Neidert, but not the threats of violence. They also unveiled their new strategy to silence the conservatives. Minutes after an article about their statement was published, they sent a revised statement to Texas Scorecard condemning the threats.
As of publication time, they still had not amended their public statement on Twitter.
Last year, YCT at UNT had a conflict with university staff—which caught the attention of State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington)—but Neidert stresses that relations with the university have improved, thanks in no small part to the Dean of Students, whom Neidert says is “pro-freedom of speech.”
“She’s making sure that all organizations get [their] freedom of speech,” Tykoski agreed.
However, UNT President Neal Smatresk replied to a tweet from someone claiming YCT at UNT made her feel “unsafe and harassed.” “We are looking into this,” Smatresk said.
Relations haven’t improved with the extreme-left on campus, as their push to ban YCT at UNT shows. “I’m honestly shocked that this didn’t happen sooner,” Tykoski said. “In the past, there was always a catalyst. We would put on an event that they really didn’t like, and then for about the next week or two, we would get bombarded with all sorts of lovely messages that just bring a smile to my face,” he added. “But this didn’t have that.”
“I think a lot of it probably has to do with what’s going on around us with Black Lives Matter and antifa,” Neidert said. “I feel like some of our campus social justice warriors just wanted a project, and so they thought they’d try to cancel us yet again.” She also thinks a change in leadership of the UNT College Democrats has something to do with it, as they previously didn’t behave this way.
Regarding the allegations leveled at them, YCT at UNT rejects the labels of racism, hate, homophobia, and others the extreme-left have tried attaching to them.
“I have a printed-out copy of nearly every UNT student organization policy, and we went over it and highlighted everything that we possibly even begin touching,” Tykoski said. “Even [the Dean of Students] said, ‘You say things people disagree with. That’s not against the rules. That’s engaging in political discourse.’”
The Dean of Students has not replied to an inquiry from Texas Scorecard.
“Not everything has been perfect,” Neidert admitted about YCT at UNT’s actions. “But overall, we’ve been a lot more reasonable than the other side, and we’re not just going to bow down to them because they started a petition.”
YCT at UNT was asked what they’d like to see from the extreme-left coalition. “So, going forward, I would like to see them be a little more civil towards us. I feel that, overall, we’ve been nice and polite towards them. I would hope that we can get the same thing back. I would also like them to understand what exactly [the] First Amendment and [Texas Senate Bill 18] do,” Neidert replied.
Texas Senate Bill 18, also called the “campus free speech bill,” became state law last September and is designed to protect “expressive activities at public institutions of higher education.”
Texas Scorecard asked UNT College Democrats what actions they would take to defend everyone’s freedom of speech on campus. They would not give a reply.
YCT at UNT was also asked what they’d like to see from the University of North Texas going forward.
“Honestly, I think that they should issue a statement, stating … what Senate Bill 18 is and how it protects us. And after that, I really don’t think they have any business getting involved any further,” Tykoski said. “So, issue the statement stating what the rules are, and then after that—as long as it doesn’t get to the level of harassment or physical violence or anything like that—it’s really just between two student organizations.”
“If [those who issued the threats] got disciplined at all, I think it would really send a good message. Like, ‘Hey, you can say whatever you want, but you can’t just threaten people.’
Neidert added she’s unsure if UNT should take action now, as it’s summer and most students are not on campus yet. “But I would say if it does continue [in the] fall and I’m on campus, I would definitely [want] UNT to help me out and do something about that.”
Neidert has said that since his tweet, Smatresk has not replied to her emails. “I would like for us to have an open line of communication there. I know we do talk to the Dean of Students a lot, and she’s great, but I do think it might have been beneficial to talk to the president’s office.”
Smatresk has not replied to repeated inquiries from Texas Scorecard on this subject.
On July 16, North Texas Daily—UNT’s taxpayer-funded student newspaper—published a biased article about the petition to ban YCT at UNT. Nowhere in the article did it mention the threats of violence leveled at YCT or Neidert, and the article frames the extreme-left coalition as the victims.