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Dr. Vincent: The Importance and Power of Free Speech

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I have always been an ardent and firm believer in both our constitutional right and the power of free speech. For it is this freedom that protects our unending desire for the truth – one which I never take for granted. Beyond truth, speech empowers our right to scientific discovery, religion, assembly and virtue.

As the famous quote attributed to Voltaire goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The methods that the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) exhibited last week were inflammatory and demeaning and did not reflect the values inherent to our university. Their words were meant to divide and isolate members of our campus community rather than foster inclusivity. By exploiting inaccurate stereotypes, the YCT’s only fed into our darkest and most divisive rhetoric—which is why I felt the need to speak on behalf of our university as well as those students that the event sought to marginalize.

The choice of a tiered pricing structure bolstered the misperception that some students either do not belong at the university or do not deserve to have access to our institution—or worse, that they deserve to have access only to a certain degree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every student at our university earned the right to be here. A majority of our students enrolled by graduating in the top 10-percent of their class, and the remainder gained access through a holistic admission process that includes more than a dozen criteria including academic excellence, extra-curricular activity, work experience, civic leadership and familial responsibility. Race is just one factor within in a factor, which is tailored narrowly and was staunchly defended by UT Austin and upheld by the highest court in the nation in Fisher v. UT.

One point which I believe we can all agree on is that the topic of admissions is an emotional one. With heightened sensitives and an increase in social media and engagement—both good and bad—this is a discussion that deserves more thoughtfulness than was displayed last week.

With that in mind, I invite all of you to join the campus community for a public forum, hosted by the Black Student Alliance, the Multicultural Engagement Center and the University Democrats on October 31 at 6 p.m. in FAC 21. I hope to see you there.

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