As Hillary Clinton advises Democrats to move away from the discussion of trans rights, one student government is taking a different approach in seeking to ban others from speaking against such rights. The students are pushing for a ban on any “transphobic” clubs from campus. The student government at the University of North Texas became the latest student body to seek to curtail free speech rights of other students by declaring opposing views to be harmful. It is a new example of the growing “speechphobic” movement on our campuses.
The Student Government Association passed a resolution at the end of the semester that demanded immediate suspension for “any UNT Student Organization that engages in harassment, discrimination, hate crimes, and/or violation of UNT policy through transphobic posts, statements, and actions.” The students simply declared the speech of others to be harmful and said that the university has to ban such views to “protect the mental, emotional, and physical health of transgender students at UNT.”
The resolution was a response to an event held by the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter with Jeff Younger, who attracted national attention over his fight to block his ex-wife’s effort to raise his son as a girl. The event was interrupted by protesters.
A recent poll showed that sixty-six percent of students believe that stopping people from speaking is free speech.
We have been discussing student editors and student government leaders using their positions to retaliate against the exercise of free speech by other students with the support of faculty. We have seen student government move to block speakers, fellow students, or groups at schools like the University of Illinois, Stanford, Iowa State, Skidmore College, Cornell, Harvard, and other schools.
The resolution includes any “transphobic posts [and] statements” as the basis for being banned. That would presumably include religious groups which have faith-based opposition to trans rights. As a public university, such an effort would likely run afoul of the First Amendment.