UNT + Trump Jr. = Being Out of Touch

The 2017-2018 season lineup for the UNT Kuehne Speaker Series was announced Tuesday and it’s a doozy.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Ernie Kuehne, the series’ namesake, began the series in 2013 to bring speakers to Dallas in the name of UNT as a way to not only enhance the university’s presence, but also engage in conversations of national and global relevance, according to the event’s website.

“Today, the lecture series is highly recognized for the nationally prominent speakers it draws," the website states.

Sure. ‘Prominent’ is fair game. Going through the list of past speakers and seeing the love affair between the series and Fox News correspondents in the past seasons, along with infamously hosting Rudy Giuliani this past year, it comes as only a subtle surprise, but also a major disappointment, that Donald Trump Jr. will be one of this year’s speakers.

First question: who picks the speakers and what is the process?

If Kuehne is a part of this process, his vision of bringing relevant speakers is failing. Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, complicit white people feels a smidge outdated, you know? Especially from a campus that cherishes diversity so much.

Trying to keep these perpetrators relevant in name of UNT is unfair to the plenty of students affiliated with the resistance. And there’s a whole lot of those students.

Trump Jr.’s recent debacle about his emails and meetings with Russian lawyers to help his father’s campaign came to light in July.

Here we have a man willing to conspire with a dangerous foreign nation and go to any means necessary to push a hateful agenda through his father’s power at the helm of the nation. He is most likely going to thank the school for bringing him. But, ugh - just so we are clear - the students did not ask for him. 

The Russian collusion witch-hunt is pretty tired. What is even more annoying is his addition to this world as another oppressive white man. Did we really need more?

The fact that UNT continues to prop these guys up (see Rudy Giuliani and Greg Abbott for more) shows the institution’s pandering to the state government and a pattern of dissociation from the student body.

It’s fair to say that Denton county is steady reddin’, but the campus is as far away from it as anyone who steps foot on it knows.

The emotional thickness in the air the day after President Trump won the election was something I am incapable of forgetting. So many tears and hugs shared in the Library Mall as immigrants, POC, LGBTQ+ persons, and every one against his way of politicking came together.

I know I am not alone as someone who chose to attend UNT because of the liberal tendencies, but you quickly learn that no matter how the student body feels, the oppression is systemic and comes from the top and reigns down regardless.

Many people scream “freedom of speech” when people protest a conservative speaker at a college campus, and by all means, have your speech. But the protest is not to stifle freedom of speech, but rather to make people realize we are continuously giving platforms to people who strip others of far worse fundamental rights than freedom of speech.

I’m sorry, not wanting a racist speaking compared to taking away health care, creating travel bans, not treating people equally and further offenses do not cancel out.

If we want a series that brings awareness of UNT in Dallas, we should have diverse speakers. Not out-of-touch Fox News correspondents.

Those guests do not show what the student population actually stands for, not the majority of students at least. People that encourage the immigrant population of the city to attend UNT, especially since UNT is specifically in the process of Latino outreach. If we want a series that speaks to national and global relevance, bring faces of the resistance who are combatting the type of hatred and bigotry like the white supremacy and neo-nazis we saw in Charlottesville this past week. Not people who make excuses as to why Ku Klux Klan leaders and alt-right voices hold President Trump near and dear to their agendas and definitely not people who sit unharmed and fail to understand the weight of the pains they perpetuate that oppress people endlessly time after time.

UNT stays wasting money on people who go against everything the University supposedly stands for. The series’ sponsors pay hefty fees to be in on this and one of the sponsors, G. Brint Ryan, a UNT Board of Regents member, has his firm’s logo slapped on the web page.

These are wealthy, powerful people allowing this. Just because money talks doesn't mean we have to give it a microphone.

Header image designed by Christopher Rodgers