(March 29, 2018) -- As campuses across the nation become venues for intense and partisan debate, universities are forming teams to protect students from being targeted for their beliefs or backgrounds while supporting the freedoms of speech, expression and assembly. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) joined this growing national action in November with the creation of a Campus Climate Team. The team actively addresses bias incidents and their impact on the university community. More than 230 such teams exist at universities around the country.
Bias incidents are events that involve or may involve the targeting of an individual or group based on their protected characteristic(s) such as race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age or religion, or their political views and affiliations.
Although UTSA condemns hate speech, it recognizes that most forms of offensive speech are protected by the First Amendment. Despite these protections, UTSA has zero tolerance for harassment. An individual may not be coerced, intimidated or badgered into viewing, listening to or accepting any communication.
The UTSA Campus Climate Team monitors, reports and assesses response to incidents that occur on campus in violation of the university’s freedom of expression policies. While registered student organizations are permitted to distribute literature expressing various opinions, non-affiliated individuals or organizations are not allowed to place materials on campus.
In recent months, outside groups have come onto UTSA campuses and posted unauthorized stickers, flyers and banners. Last week, the Campus Climate Team identified and removed unauthorized flyers placed on campus by representatives of the Horowitz Freedom Center. Action by the team, in coordination with the UTSA Police Department’s review of camera footage, identified a non-affiliated person responsible for posting the flyers. A criminal trespass warning was subsequently issued and violation of the warning could lead to arrest.
“Our first priority is the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “While the university recognizes the importance of the freedoms of speech, expression and assembly, it does not tolerate speech that violates freedom of expression policies, attempts to incite illegal action or puts individuals at physical risk.”
Members of the UTSA Campus Climate Team, appointed by Eighmy, include:
As a limited public forum, UTSA students, faculty and staff may peaceably assemble on the university’s three campuses, provided they do not disrupt the university’s educational mission or its ongoing programs or operations. Permitted activities include petitioning, displaying signs, distributing literature, setting up tables and exhibits and/or peacefully demonstrating.
Registered student, faculty and staff organizations, and academic and administrative units, may also invite guest speakers to campus, provided they schedule the guest speaker with the university’s Events Management and Conference Services office. This process includes the reservation of space when a venue is needed.
The UTSA Campus Climate Team will actively notify the campus community of situations that have the potential to pose a concern to campus safety while keeping in mind that outside groups often have a goal of gaining publicity by posting unauthorized materials on a university campus. A public-facing website, where all on-campus incidents are recorded, is being developed to give the university community a single comprehensive source for accurate information. It will include an online form for reporting concerns to the Campus Climate Team, enhancing UTSA’s ability to systematically identify and respond to campus incidents.
The UTSA Campus Climate Team is also coordinating with other campus and student organizations to host forums related to freedom of expression, the exchange of diverse ideas and opinions, and peaceful assembly.
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.