The University has recently started enforcing regulations for approving guest speakers for student organization events.
Registered student organizations and sponsored student organizations need advance permission from the Dean of Students for guest speakers, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. However, the policy was not enforced in previous years, said Sara Kennedy, spokesperson for the Office of the Dean of Students.
“Our office received guidance from University legal affairs about this policy and has adjusted our enforcement of this rule to reflect that guidance,” Kennedy said.
University Democrats president Andrew Herrera said he hosted Dyana Limon-Mercado, Travis County Democratic Party Chair, as a featured guest speaker at this year’s first University Democrats meeting but did not gain permission from the University to host her. After the meeting, Herrera received an email saying University Democrats must report all future guest speakers or lose some privileges.
“In the past, we’ve not necessarily always approved our speakers, the University has been a lot more relaxed,” government junior Herrera said. “Now, they’re cracking down. But it’s a public university, and we’re all over 18. We should be trusted to make our own decisions in terms of what dialogue we try to start on campus.”
The issue affects all political organizations on campus, Herrera said.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” Herrera said. “It’s regulations like this that actually put free speech in jeopardy on college campuses. A lot of them stem from the 1970s. It’s just a lot of policies that are archaic that we don’t really need on campus.”
Saurabh Sharma, a biochemistry senior and chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, echoed that the newly-enforced rules hinder civic engagement.
“The University has insisted it can now micromanage every meeting groups have,” Sharma said. “That is ridiculous, and we won’t be shy about presenting legal challenges to fight it. I understand rules for speaker events with massive crowds, but enforcing these rules on general meetings is pretty absurd.”
From now on, Herrera said, his organization will be more careful when inviting guest speakers.
“We were lucky to know how to get everything passed and approved,” Herrera said. “There was really no orientation for that. If I hadn’t known about the policy from offices before me, that could’ve seriously put our organization in jeopardy. I’m sure it could put other orgs in jeopardy as well.”