Statement from Dr. Gregory Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin

March 28, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — We embrace free speech on campus and encourage the open exchange of ideas, especially in our student media.

However, we recognize that the cartoon published in yesterday's Daily Texan was of questionable taste and was offensive to many members of the campus community. The facts are still being gathered in the Trayvon Martin case, so I urge all members of the UT Austin community to refrain from making rash statements or judgments. As the nation continues to grapple with this tragic event and its implications, I ask everyone in the UT family to be civil and respectful toward one another.

For more information, contact: Leslie D Blair, Director of Communications, Diversity & Community Engagement, 512 232 4621.

24 Comments to "Statement from Dr. Gregory Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin"

1.  Sharon Jackson said on March 29, 2012

I was on the verge of complaint myself until I read the official statement from UT concerning the disrespectful and tasteless Daily Texan cartoon. Thank you for publicly addressing where this University stands pertaining to this issue.

2.  Laurence said on March 29, 2012

Dr. Vincent's statement is very socially sensitive. In modern use, the term "colored" is offensive, but why does the the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) use the term?

3.  Bill said on March 29, 2012

At this point we don't really know if Trayvon Martin really attacked the Neighborhood Watch guy or not. The truth has not been told yet.

My personal opinion: neither Florida nor Texas ought to allow citizens to carry guns, and Neighborhood Watch people need to call the Police and step aside and let them do their job.

As to the cartoon: it's the Daily Txn, who cares? Most of their so-called "cartoons" are nothing but sophomoric trash anyway.

I agree that we should all civil and respectful of one another!

4.  Laurence said on March 29, 2012

After checking my dictionary, the term "colored was adopted in the US by emancipated slaves as a term of racial pride after the end of the Civil war." This controversy serves as a springboard to discuss terminology, learn history, and remain socially sensitive.

5.  JSmith said on March 30, 2012

What on Earth kind of racist establishment are you running there? This child was truly lynched and you find it funny??? You need to lose accreditation!

6.  Jessica said on March 30, 2012

Thank you for your comment Dr. Vincent. Yes, we do live in a country where we have the right to free speech. At this university we engage in academic freedom (with faculty, staff and students) everyday. But people have to understand that there are consequences to their words. You can't go onto a plane and yell "Bomb" or go into a crowded room and cry out "fire" and argue you were just practicing your first amendment right. Words can be hateful, mean, ugly and can even hurt worse than something done physically. I hope Ms. Eisner and our young students learn something from this experience. Please learn to think before they speak.

7.  cd said on March 30, 2012

it was in poor taste but i don't think she should have been fired. it was poor judgement but she's a young student. She was rightfully trying to incite dialogue about how the media can paint a story with one sided reporting. the execution was absolutely horrible. the whole purpose of the daily texan is to teach aspiring journalists how to write and how to exercise good judgement. there is an editorial board and a faculty adviser. if anything, the editorial board was more to blame for approving the image. i can understand a suspension but she shouldn't be canned.

8.  Eric said on March 30, 2012

I would have to agree with Laurence on here. I watched the local news report where Dr. Vincent stated "Colored has such a tough connotation, it is certainly not a word we use in current day."

Like Laurence stated, what about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). If we don't use it in current day, then why does this organization continue to operate under that particular name?? If it is so offensive, then why don't they change their name?

I think we have bigger issues in the world today than to be so critical of free speech and cartoons. There was no obvious racial degredation in that cartoon. WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG ISSUE?? Our economy is tanking, people are losing their jobs, inflation is growing exponentially and employers refuse to increase wages (especially State-employed).

9.  Joseph Michael McCarthy said on March 31, 2012

In regards to thye above incident every undergraduate should be required as part of the U.T. core curriculum to enroll in a course entitled The History of The University of Texas Past and Present. By enrolling in said course one would find out that blacks in the past and to this day continue to be discriminated against at U.T. Also I hope the university will hire a qualified Vice President of Student Affairs who is black. When one looks around the campus their are very few Vice Presidents of color.

10.  NEAL BURNS said on March 31, 2012

Apart from the tragedy the Martin family has suffered and the increased concern African American parents have about mistreatment of their children and the revulsion and sadness so many of us feel . . . little, it seems to me, has been said about the psychopathology that finds easy expression in the availability of guns and the vulnerability of the defenseless. One man shoots a member of Congress and kills a small child in Arizona, a soldier shoots and kills unarmed men at a Texas military base, in France another self proclaimed hero kills a teacher and several small children at a Jewish school in France and yet another in Norway ruthlessly
shoots kids attending a youth camp . . . and the list goes on & on. Our species has a long history of incomprehensible inhumanity. In the US improved recognition and treatment of aberrant tendencies and much improved control of guns must be added to the other efforts directed to reducing this hideous violence.

11.  Jim said on March 31, 2012

I agree with Dr. Vincent. However free speech does not prohibit anyone from being offended. There was a cartoon a day or two earlier in the Texan depicting a large Cowboy with the letters "NRA" on his hat, apparently associating the shooting with the NRA's approval. I was offended by that, but I know what free speech is. I didn't put a bounty on George Zimmerman's life like the Black Panthers saying "Wanted Dead or Alive" or fan the flames of racism like Al Sharpston and Jessie Jackson are doing. Let the investigation continue and see how it plays out in court, like it should, so hopefully, the truth will come out for everyone to see.

12.  Bryan Wong said on March 31, 2012

"You can't go onto a plane and yell 'Bomb' or go into a crowded room and cry out 'fire' and argue you were just practicing your first amendment right. "

The scenarios above are generally accepted examples of limits on freedom of speech. However, those examples demonstrate how narrow the limitation is. The limitation applies to extreme scenarios, such as where a specific word could cause a dangerous panic.

A word used in a cartoon is not such a scenario. Though a word may be hateful, mean, or ugly, those considerations have little weight under the First Amendment. Thus, the author CAN argue that she is practicing her First Amendment right.

13.  Samian said on March 31, 2012

People have misinterpreted the cartoon. That's not the fault of the cartoonist. I have a petition up on Change.org calling for her to be reinstated.

People are free to protest and air their viewpoints.
But they should similarly be ready to tolerate dissent, too.

14.  lcs said on April 1, 2012

Dr. Vincent must have waited till it was mentioned on FaUx news.

Where's Powers on this...crickets?

15.  Majesta Majorca said on April 1, 2012

It is the tone of that cartoon, not the use of the word "colored" that is offensive and has embarrassed our whole school in the national news.

The assumption on the part of the cartoonist that somehow Trayvon Martin was the aggressor is just another case of blaming the victim.

A young man is dead. Show some respect.

16.  Leftus A. Lone said on April 1, 2012

UT, Texas, the South and the whole of the U.S. is still filled to the brim with racist attitudes, rhetoric and behavior.

We have a long, long way to go to overcome the stain of European invasion, slavery, misogyny and a white patriarchal political system.

Going to college does seem to help, but it isn't a cure...apparently.

17.  Bill said on April 1, 2012

@Joseph Michael McCarthy: you need to find out the facts before you accuse UT of current racism. There's nothing to be done about the past but learn from it, and UT has. And, for your information, there are many Af-Am students, faculty and staff at UT, some of whom serve in high Administrative positions.
I would like for you to submit specific examples of "racism" at UT today, rather than make accusations! That's just a cheap shot. Sorry, but I don't buy your comments without evidence to back them up.

18.  Bill said on April 1, 2012

The unfortunate incident happened because the Legislators of Florida (and Texas!) permit citizens to carry guns on the streets! I hope this moves people to vote against this stupid concept of "freedom," which most Republicans seem to have.

19.  Jack said on April 2, 2012

Yes Bill, Republicans do believe in freedom. How terrible. Let a cartoon be a cartoon. I thought it was an objective take on the media jumping to conclusions and turning public opinion against a man without knowing the facts of the case. Probably the best cartoon The Daily Texan has run in a long time.

20.  Lucian Villasenor said on April 3, 2012

@Bill, you want specific examples? How about when a white frat student came into the Malcolm X Lounge in black face. How about during the last Round Up when a white frat student spit on African American girls, threw food on them and then got the paid security to forcibly throw them out. Racism is alive and well at UT. Can't wait to see you at the next UT Town Hall meeting, Dr. Vincent. We are gonna bring it, and we aren't taking no for an answer when it comes to mandatory anti-oppression trainings for all incoming students.

21.  Mike said on April 3, 2012

Mr. Neal Burns. Sir, with all due respect, there are over twenty thousand Federal, State, and local gun control laws on the books in the United States. They so far, have. It prevented criminals from committing murders with firearms. Another law will accomplish nothing, except preventing the law abiding from protecting themselves. As far as the cartoon goes, And Dr. Vincent response, I agree with Jim's assessment in his comments.

22.  Jessica said on April 4, 2012

Excuse me Mr. Wong, but where in my comment did I say that Ms. Eisner was unable to practice her First Amendment right. We are all entitled to free speech but we should understand there are consequences. We need to welcome all points of view. But if you say something hateful, prejudice or controversial then you will suffer the consequences. In this scenario she created something that has offended many people and she has to brace herself for the backlash. Say whatever you want. But be ready for the fallout.

23.  Bill said on April 5, 2012

@Lucian: Those acts you mention are inappropriate and wrong, but they are acts of individuals, not The Univ of Texas at Austin. I want specific examples of how UT, as a University, discriminates based on race, not comments about some drunk frat guy spitting on people...fortunately, he does not represent UT and most of the people at UT.

24.  Bryan Wong said on April 22, 2012

Jessica, your sentence on the First Amendment gives examples of certain types of speech that are not protected.
If you weren't implying that the First Amendment didn't protect Ms. Eisner's speech, what were you trying to say?