The UT Police Department is currently investigating criminal mischief regarding a smoke device set off at 6:46 p.m. outside of a speaker event hosted by the Young Conservatives of Texas in Gearing Hall on Monday evening, UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said.
The smoke device and fire alarm were likely set off on purpose to interrupt the event and caused Gearing Hall to be temporarily evacuated, Newton said. No one was injured, according to the campus-wide email.
The University released a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the incident, saying the disruption of the speaker violates University rules and goes against free speech values.
“All members of the university community and their guests must be able to express their views without interference,” UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email. “Fortunately, this event was able to continue. Attempts to disrupt speakers not only violate university rules but also go against the values of free expression that are vital to our campus.”
Biochemistry senior and YCT chair Saurabh Sharma said the smoke device was likely set off to sabotage the event, which hosted speaker Ryan Bomberger, president of anti-abortion non-profit Radiance Foundation.
“A smoke bomb is not a device that gets onto a college campus without someone bringing it there,” sharma said. “It being put in a trash can right outside our event in the middle of our event is a pretty clear message.”
Sharma said YCT members were told by the police that someone lit a smoke bomb in a trash can outside the event room.
Sharma said the event was moved to Painter Hall without further disturbance.
Because YCT is hosting another event with a speaker from the National Rifle Association Thursday, Sharma said the organization is more alert to a possible disturbance at this event.
“We typically don’t have our events disrupted like this so we’re a little bit on high alert,” Sharma said.
UTPD encourages anyone with more information to call 512-471-4441, ext. 9.