President Powers Responds to YCT: Immigration Event is not in Line with UT Austin Values

Nov. 18, 2013

Statement from UT Austin President Bill Powers

The proposed Young Conservatives of Texas event is completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin. Our students, faculty and the entire university work hard both to promote diversity and engage in a respectful exchange of ideas. The Wednesday event does not reflect that approach or commitment.

As Americans, we should always visualize our Statue of Liberty and remember that our country was built on the strength of immigration. Our nation continues to grapple with difficult questions surrounding immigration. I ask YCT to be part of that discussion but to find more productive and respectful ways to do so that do not demean their fellow students.

The university Faculty Council has unanimously endorsed the statement.

Statement from Dr. Gregory J. Vincent Regarding YCT Game Scheduled for Nov. 20

Apparently drawing from a 2005-06 plan of Young Conservative organizations on campuses across the country, the UT Austin chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) is hosting a game on campus this Wednesday called “Catch an Illegal Immigrant.”

The game involves students walking around campus with the words “Illegal Immigrant” on their back. Students who capture the marked students and bring them back to the YCT table will be rewarded with a $25 gift card.

As was the case with the YCT bake sale on the west mall last month, such tactics are inflammatory and demeaning. And once again in trying to be provocative, the YCT is contributing to an environment of exclusion and disrespect among our students, faculty and staff by sending the message that certain students do not belong on our campus. Some UT Austin students are undocumented, and under Dream Act legislation signed into law in 2001, these students are entitled to attend state universities. They are part of a growing diverse population on campus and in the state of Texas—a population that plays increasingly larger roles in our intellectual, economic, political and cultural communities.

The university honor code entreats students to abide by the core values of the university, one of which is freedom, but two others of which are individual opportunity and responsibility. The university also values free speech and our campus continues to be an arena that inspires dialogue from diverse viewpoints. However, it is also meant to be a community where students exhibit respect for each other while holding those viewpoints.

If the members of YCT carry out their plan for “Catch an Illegal Immigrant,” they are willfully ignoring the honor code and contributing to the degradation of our campus culture. And once again, they will have resorted to exercising one of the university’s core values to the detriment of others. Such actions are counterproductive to true dialogue on our campus, and it is unrepresentative of the ideals toward which our community strives.

For more information, contact: University Communications, Office of the President, 512 471 3151;  Leslie Blair, Div. of Diversity & Community Engagement, 512-232-4621.

48 Comments to "President Powers Responds to YCT: Immigration Event is not in Line with UT Austin Values"

1.  Rick Cherwitz said on Nov. 18, 2013

Free speech is one thing, but this is something entirely different. If the goal of this “game” is to promote real discussion on an important and controversial issue, the result will be just the opposite: demeaning events like this can only result in polarized, venomous reactions that prevent genuine deliberation. Sad day for UT—very sad indeed.

2.  Steven Sanchez said on Nov. 18, 2013

I know alot of my fellow peers are in complete disgust of this organization's actions. As a student I strongly encourage that this be dealt with properly in a manner in which these offensive campus events be prevented from occuring again. It is a huge distraction to the student body and thus requires significant action from the university.

3.  Phillip Graham said on Nov. 18, 2013

A quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in reference to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

4.  amy said on Nov. 18, 2013

So what measures will the office of student involvement (or UT's equivalent) take against this student organization for engaging in speech that undermines the university's values and mission?

This statement from the president, which ACTUALLY includes the sentence, "**If** the members of YCT carry out their plan for “Catch an Illegal Immigrant, ...” details no plan of action to uphold an environment at UT that is conducive to fellowship, learning, or freedom. In fact, it demonstrates to a non-UT student (ie: myself) that the campus culture has tolerance for hate speech (it must be, since it is clearly not zero-tolerance) -- which, by the way, is not protected under the Constitution as free speech.

5.  Jordan Schmittou said on Nov. 18, 2013

I believe that this event is blatantly offensive, insensitive, and repugnant. I also believe that 1st Amendment rights apply to all types of speech, whether people think they are offensive or not. Freedom of speech was put in place precisely to protect the right to express unpopular viewpoints.

And yes, the 1st Amendment does apply in this situation, seeing as UT Austin is a public institution, regardless of the university's honor code or mission statements.

6.  Ohplease said on Nov. 18, 2013

"Free speech is one thing, but...."

No. Free speech is free speech. They've spoken, and you've responded. Are you really so insecure in your side of the argument that you're willing to suggest they've no right to make asses of themselves?

7.  Ainee Athar said on Nov. 18, 2013

I'm an undocumented student at UT and see freedom of speech used to justify violence and harassment of students of color. I am very happy with DDCE and President Powers for condemning this situation. They both stated that this is a violation of the Honor Code and this could be a violation of the non-discriminatory policy. They aren't simply expressing, we don't support undocumented students, they are encouraging other students to play a racist, dehumanizing game of 'catch the immigrant' as if immigrants are so many pigs for the slaughter. This is hate speech, this is encouraging hostility and violence against the hundreds of undocumented students at UT and the thousands in Texas.

8.  Marc Jalandoon said on Nov. 18, 2013

If the ultimate goal was truly to spark debate, the members of YCT spearheading this event must have surely been informed prior to and during the planning of this event that there are more respectful, socially-engaging, and value-challenging ways than this to achieve that goal.

But if the ultimate goal is to generate buzz and garner local, regional, and/or national attention, then the YCT has already succeeded. To do acts like the proposed game (and the bake sale before it) under the clearly transparent guise of "wanting to spread public awareness" are blatantly disrespectful, and I'm sure the organization and its leaders are aware of the inflammatory undertones of the crusade.

The message (spreading public awareness) is there; the delivery, unfortunately, is not.

9.  Pedro urenda said on Nov. 18, 2013

There are more than 1000 hate groups across America and we do not need more of that. University by definition means an institution of learning of the highest level. Multiculturalism must prevail regardless of personal conflicts among students.

10.  Junior said on Nov. 18, 2013

FREE SPEECH

11.  Teri Hibbert said on Nov. 18, 2013

first amendment does not protect HATE speech and that is what this is. If UT Austin allows this as they allowed the racist and sexist bake sale, they are not contributing to any higher education I am a part of. Please talk to this group and counsel them about why this is not reflective of critical thinking on a topic they have strong ideas about.
thank you

12.  A Legal Immigrant said on Nov. 18, 2013

As a legal immigrant, I find the efforts by the Young Conservatives of Texas group to be commendable. Their views may not be consistent with the liberal stance of the university, but they are certainly appreciated by those of us who worked hard to gain citizenship and attend the university.

13.  Sergio R. Davila said on Nov. 18, 2013

The stated purpose of the event is to "spark" discussion; specifically, "campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration", implying that such discussion has not been and would not occur unless they hold the event. Those of us living in the real world, however, know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead, what has been "sparked" is a state-wide (possibly nationwide) discussion of the darkness of these participants' hearts; of how eye-opening it is that some people actually have the requisite senses of entitlement and impunity to actually organize and publicly align themselves with an event such as this; and of how embarrassing this must be for the vast majority of students, faculty, and staff, who must now endure the unwarranted stigma of being associated, even indirectly, with these children. I imagine that Ole Miss alums, among whom I have personally encountered nothing but outstanding people, felt a similar sense of shame when the 'Laramie Project' story broke nationally.

Unlike the spontaneous hecklers at Ole Miss, however, I suspect that YCT is conducting itself with complete awareness that this deplorable conduct will make state (if not national) headlines in the coming days. I believe it's a pattern of conduct whose objective is not to "spark discussion" but instead to raise the profiles of a few of its members, which will pad their resumes and get them cushy jobs at think tanks or 2014/2016 campaign offices, all at the expense of the University's reputation.

Here's the basic gameplan:

(1) Plan an outrageous "event"

(2) Promote the "event", with public outrage being the result

(3) The outrage will force the media to cover the "event"

(4) Cite the media coverage as effective P.R.

(5) Leverage the effective P.R. experience to get political jobs

Even if YCT were to call this event off, these children will have already reaped the benefits of their gameplan. The University cannot constitutionally prohibit the event; all it can do is CYA (which it has done in these statements) but that, of course, fuels the media coverage.

There is a silver lining in all of this, which is that the rational students and those students who developed a sense of compassion typically organize a much larger, much more persuasive counterprotest. For those ambivalent people, it clarifies the choice between hate and compassion by way of juxtaposition: who would you rather align yourself with, the attention-seeking sycophants or the people with love in their hearts, who shout only when their principles require them to speak up? And so, as this nation and as this state progresses toward enlightenment, those who learn from the mistakes of the past will persuade more than those who refuse to even admit those mistakes were ever made, those who value inclusion will persuade more than those who exclude, and those who diminish the reputations of their communities for their own personal political gain will see that no amount of money can buy a campaign ad capable of persuading America's fastest-growing, most important voter demographic from ever casting a single vote for the guys who aligned with those children that outwardly considers them subhuman.

Indeed, they have sparked something, but hardly anything they won't regret.

14.  Jose Leyva said on Nov. 18, 2013

As a Mexican American who is personally offended about this proposed activity, I am deeply sadden and disappointed at the leadership of YCT. But just as I am displeased, offended, and blatantly against this, our Constitution protects such free speech and although extremely distasteful YCT has the right to do carry on.

15.  Free speech said on Nov. 18, 2013

Illegal means illegal. We commend the prosecution of illegal activity in this country. Undocumented DREAM act students are another thing entirely. I support these students free speech right to speak our against the increasingly politically correct stance that we should turn a blind eye to illegal immigration. Embarrassing that someone who usually has it so right would take a political stance when that exactly what he has tried to keep the university away from.

16.  Jordan Schmittou said on Nov. 18, 2013

To the people here saying the 1st Amendment does not protect hate speech, actually, yes it does. You may say it doesn't but the Supreme Court disagrees with you. Why do you think the Westboro Baptist Church is allowed to march around with signs that say "God Hates F---".

You either believe in free speech or you don't. Having to put up with morons like YCT is the price we pay to live in a free society.

17.  Daisy said on Nov. 18, 2013

Europeans are the original illegal immigrants, aren't they?

18.  HAB said on Nov. 18, 2013

Hey, Legal Immigrant CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE.

19.  Liz Gutierrez said on Nov. 18, 2013

This is the most disgusting game I have ever heard of. As matter of fact this is so cruel. Freedom of speech does not mean attacking others and making a population be belittled.

20.  Legal Immigrant said on Nov. 18, 2013

As a legal immigrant, I find it reprehensible that any other legal immigrant (such as the author of comment 12) would find these actions commendable.

It is legal for undocumented students to receive an education. Free speech is free speech, but with freedom comes responsibility. Promoting hatred, violence, and persecution are hardly Christian values.

YCT does not represent the values of this great state and this great university.

21.  Claudia Yañez said on Nov. 18, 2013

Thank you to President Powers for his statements against the YCT shenanigans. YCT, you continue to disgrace yourselves and the fine institution which if the University. Shame on you boys.

22.  Jordan Schmittou said on Nov. 18, 2013

The people here saying that the 1st Amendment does not protect against hate speech (all constitutional lawyers, no doubt) would do well to brush up on their Supreme Court history. Two separate cases in recent history have affirmed that hate speech is in fact protected under the 1st Amendment.

Brandenburg vs Ohio (1969)

R.A.V. vs City of St. Paul (1992)

A quick reading of the summary of the decisions in these cases will show you that you're wrong.

The 1st Amendment will always prevail. Get used to it.

23.  Debra Arroyo said on Nov. 18, 2013

As a hispanic woman and alum of this university, I am thoroughly disgusted by the YCT. I fail to understand why they are allowed to continue to be part of the university system. If they are "completely out of line with the values we espouse at The University of Texas at Austin" then they should not be allowed on campus.

This is not free speech. They are targeting specific members of society (aka racial profiling) not voicing their opinion.

24.  Martha Kowalak Perez said on Nov. 18, 2013

More evidence of the embarrassing level of ignorance in Texas. First amendment rights don't include denigration of other people who struggle to make a living. But most of these "young republicans" would know much about that would they?

25.  Baruch said on Nov. 18, 2013

As a professional educator I say expel every student who participates.

26.  Sandy wells said on Nov. 18, 2013

Pains me to see young Conservatives engage in such stupidity. The point of their message is to decry illegal entry to the United States is lost in the tactless childish "game." Yes, immigration has been a central tenet of our history but it has been LEGAL immigration, not this sneaking over our borders with disregard for the law. Illegal immigration is condoned and approved, such an insult to the people patiently awaiting their turn through the legal immigration processes!

27.  Jacob S. said on Nov. 18, 2013

I'm all about our constitutional rights being protected even if its an idea that I disagree with but to publicly display this out right demeaning behavior is unacceptable. Its almost to the same extent of saying, "lets play game, called Lets Catch a Jewish person". In fact weren't many immigrants undocumented to begin with they first migrated to the U.S. i.e. the Irish, Italian, French, Germans...the list goes on and on. I'm a Mexican American and I'm not bias to my own people, is it right for them to come here illegally or any immigrant for that matter? No, but I do believe there should be a more productive system in play to better help all types of immigrants, if our true goal is to offer them the same rights to be American citizens then we drastic reform one that is reasonable and logical. Really? YCT is this the best way to promote discussion? It looks more like promoting "alienation", "bigotry" and in fact it seems kind of hypocritical to judge a group of people who are in fact "illegal", on a immigration system that only we U.S. Citizens can lobby for change, lets not blame groups of people for our short falls.

28.  John said on Nov. 18, 2013

Yeah let's all support crime. What part of illegal in illegal immigration is so hard to understand?

29.  Alex Cranberg said on Nov. 18, 2013

YCT dramatized a point with its bake sale that disparate treatment of students is uncomfortable and may be harmful, regardless of the historic rationale for such disparate treatment or whether such disparate treatment is justified. The present game dramatizes the opposite point intended by YCT: that disparate treatment of students because of their immigration status is uncomfortable and may be harmful (especially using a game that smacks of vigilantism).

30.  somebody said on Nov. 18, 2013

at least immigrants WORK unlike YCT

31.  Phillip Tracy said on Nov. 18, 2013

President Powers words are commendable and welcomed. Unfortunately, there are people who are ignorant of the effects and their actions and the way in which they will be viewed. What the YCT has planned is a poor and offensive way of illustrating their belief and it will have a negative effect on the way their group and this University is viewed. I hope the YCT (particularly the participating members) acknowledge the requests of our fine University, put their egos aside, and find a more appropriate way of expressing their opinions.

32.  Susan said on Nov. 18, 2013

Keep exercising your free speech rights, YCT! It pushes more and more people away from you and the Republican party. As another poster noted, it just shows how dark your hearts are.

33.  LeAnne Parrish said on Nov. 19, 2013

Free Speech is not hate speech.

34.  Herlinda Gutierrez said on Nov. 19, 2013

I am an alumni and owe my accomplishments to my immigrant grandparents.Let us NOT forget that this is a state and a nation built by immigrants. This is a shame and I am surprised that Social Work students are not opposing this. I am withholding any future donations. shame on you.

35.  john limon said on Nov. 19, 2013

It doesn't matter what excuse or "rights" these people use to stage an event like this or those who defend it. The real reason is 'HATE". These young Republicans are only showing their hate that they learned from their parents. Believe me, they will soon be a minority in this country and we won't have to worry about their hatred.

36.  leela fireside said on Nov. 19, 2013

If people want to protest this offensive free speech, why not make signs that say "no human being is illegal" and wear those signs?
Stand in solidarity with immigrants who are unfairly painted with a broad brush, and at the same time, defend the core American right to free speech.

37.  jose sanchez said on Nov. 19, 2013

i may not agree with what you say, but i will defend with my life, your right to say it..

38.  Hector Robert Rodriguez said on Nov. 19, 2013

I am a very proud alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, having received a BBA in 1980 and a J.D. in 1987. I have been able to contribute to my family and my community because of the education I received at UT-Austin. I applaud President Bill Powers for his comment concerning the YCT and its "game." Today is the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," and it is sad that in 2013 we as a nation are still fighting a virtual civil war. Many young men paid the ultimate sacrifice so that this country could live in unity and not in disharmony. The "game" that the YCT intends to play is deplorable, harassing, childish, and serves no legitimate purpose--especially on a university campus. In reply to Comment No. 22, I suggest you read Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), which is the seminal case on Free Speech. In its opinion the U.S. Supreme Court said, "it is well understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. There are certain well defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or 'fighting' words--those which, by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. To the YCT, before engaging in your "game," ask yourselves, "What would Abraham Lincoln do?"

39.  Douglas Obando said on Nov. 19, 2013

As a documented alien, I resent the leniency given to the illegal aliens who are trying to justify their "right"to live in the US.
I believe that President Powers study his history. We encouraged immigration in order to fulfill Manifest Destiny and to eradicate the Native Americans.
Our industrial needs for labor fueled the need for a larger workforce. At a time that our citizens are hard pressed to find employment we need less immigration.
Econ 100 will tell you so.
Let is not confuse the fact that "illegal" is just that, a lack pod respect

40.  rudy melendez said on Nov. 19, 2013

A message to all university students:

Operating in fear will fail you
When you fail out...
Be prepared to "catch yourself"

"Embrace Diversity at The University"

41.  Marcus Horton said on Nov. 19, 2013

Most people on this posting seem to get the point, while a few don't. Singling anyone out for being a human being is never a good stance. Essentially everyone currently residing in this country, regardless of any government-issued documentation, has a connection to a form of immigration here. We are seeing a repeat of history as people are find themselves ostracized in one geographic location / society only to become the party ostracizing others in a different place.

Although growth in immigration ranks can strain resources, I just don't see that as a "crime" as the YCT's and other reprehensible parties are supporting. They are willing to turn their backs on more pressing issues that have direct, real victims. I have said in numerous cases and times that if an individual treats others along the lines of the "golden rule", pays taxes, obeys traffic laws, etc. then they are behaving according to any real expectation. Once they step outside of that structure, the crime is being committed. Immigration status does not equate to criminality. Someone who has lived within these borders their entire lives should be equally subject to penalties that seem to be relegated by the YCT's to apply only new immigrants, minorities, females, homosexuals, etc. or some other model that has been narrowly perceived and adopted.

42.  Tim Clifton said on Nov. 19, 2013

YCT, the firestorm around this is revealing the oppressive instincts of liberals, but as a conservative, I condemn this for being politically stupid. Liberal groups around the country ought to be praying that you go forward with this so they can use your fringe poor judgment as representative of the broad sentiment of conservatives... This will become a national story for the wrong reasons and it WILL peel votes away from conservatives here in Texas...

43.  Daisy said on Nov. 19, 2013

To John, (comment # 25) was Columbus illegally here?

44.  Juan Flores said on Nov. 19, 2013

As a Mexican PhD working legally in the USA I am deeply offended about this proposed activity. The activity only shows that the organizers have little knowledge about historic events. They are promoting hate and hate should not be protected by any modern constitution in our planet.

45.  Yirla said on Nov. 19, 2013

What is UT going to do? The first amendment does not protect hate speech.

46.  John Kuehne said on Nov. 19, 2013

President Powers rocks! This horrible 'game' of hunting down our fellow humans needs to be condemned, even while it may be protected as free speech. Thank you President Powers for addressing this issue so eloquently.

47.  Bill said on Nov. 21, 2013

I applaud the many positive comments here, showing that most people deplore the YCT's latest proposal. At the same time, I'd like to point out that many undocumented students had no choice in the country of their residence...they were brought here by their parents. Consequently, they grew up as "Americans," with English language, US education, friends, etc. Some have served in our military. These people need official recognition and encouragement to better themselves and contribute to the overall well-being of our country, as millions of immigrants before them have done.

48.  Giancarlo Taylor said on Nov. 21, 2013

I come from a family of conservatives. As conservatives we welcome immigrants to this country. The USA is stronger because of people who come here from other places. My great-grandfather was an illegal immigrant. He did not want to leave Italy but left with a dream of a better life in the USA. He worked hard building a successful business and made a good life for himself, his family and helped pass that down to me. I will always support immigrants legal or illegal because they represent the best, hardest working people who have to overcome extremes. I will never forget the sacrifice, risks and hard work my great-grandfather made for a better life. Not only do the actions of this group go against the values of UT, they go against American values.