Responding to Derogatory Speech with More Speech
Exercise your rights! The best response to insensitive, offensive or demeaning speech is often more speech. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech, no matter how offensive its content. This means that the freedom to respond is protected as well, subject to the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities, Appendix C, Chapter 13: Speech, Expression and Assembly. This information is intended as a general guide and not meant to be an interpretation of the Institutional Rules.
If you encounter offensive speech on campus, consider a few of your options for voicing your opinion:
- Speak out against what you consider offensive — organize a rally on the West Mall, post flyers in approved campus venues, or table on campus to raise awareness of the issue.
- Create or join a registered student organization on the topic or interest of your choice.
- Host educational events such as forums, panels, guest lectures and workshops to spread your message.
- Write letters to the editors of The Daily Texan and other print and web-based publications.
- Build coalitions with other registered student organizations and departments on campus.
Subject to applicable laws and the Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities, offensive speech may cross the line when:
- It becomes conduct — an act of violence, harassment or an invasion of privacy.
- Public or private property is vandalized, damaged, destroyed or marked with graffiti.
- Specific individuals are threatened.
- University business, such as a class in session, is disrupted.
- A pattern of personal attacks creates a hostile learning or working environment.
For more information on policies utilized by the Campus Climate Response Team, visit our Policies page.
Any student, employee or campus visitor is advised to do the following when encountering graffiti/vandalism that may be derogatory in nature or have a negative impact on the campus climate for diversity:
- Do not attempt to alter or remove the graffiti/vandalism.
- If possible, document the graffiti/vandalism by taking a photo on a camera phone or writing down the content of the graffiti.
- Report the graffiti/vandalism to the UT Police Department by calling 512-471-4441.
- Notify the Campus Climate Response Team of the graffiti/vandalism so that it can be documented and follow up can take place. Please share any documentation you have recorded of the graffiti. Reports may be made to the CCRT online form or by calling the Office of the Dean of Students (UT Austin students) at 512-471-5017 or Office for Inclusion and Equity (UT Austin employees, visitors and contractors) at 512-471-1849.
- The Campus Climate Response Team will maintain open communication with the UT Police Department and building managers on campus regarding graffiti/vandalism.
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