A white University of North Texas staff attorney learned the hard way that free speech comes at a cost.
UNT assistant general counsel Caitlin Sewell stepped down from her post after she used the derogatory n-word in a speech to prove that the racist epithet falls under protected speech. But her insensitive effort to prove her case cost her a job.
“You know, you can say a lot of offensive things in here because it’s impossible to talk about the First Amendment without saying horrible things. Um, you know, ‘You’re just a dumb n—– and I hate you.’ That alone, that’s protected speech.”
Sewell was speaking at the school’s “When Hate Comes to Campus,” event when she inserted the offensive term and sparked outrage. Many in the audience, including the school’s SGA president were appalled, and left the event in protest.
I got the part when she said it smh pic.twitter.com/b5ldXwH6o4
— Alexandria✨ (@Alex_Finkley) November 8, 2019
According to Dallas News, on Friday, UNT system chancellor Lesa Roe and president Neal Smatresk said in a statement that Sewell submitted her resignation.
“In the coming days and weeks, it is our intention to engage in a dialogue with student and campus leaders regarding ways we can continue to foster a culture of diversity that is UNT,” the statement read.
“In the meantime, UNT counseling resources are available for all students, faculty, and staff.”
“We’re living in a white supremacist system, we have to understand that,” said student government association president Yolian Ogbu. “And because of that, we constantly have people like us … that feel a certain type of way when someone says that word. If it wasn’t that big of a deal, I wouldn’t be saying anything right now. But it is, and the fact that we’re at this point … is disturbing.”
Ogbu also advocated for Sewell’s firing.
“If UNT wants to say they’re anti-racist, show us,” she wrote on Twitter.
During the event, Sewell apologized saying, she “did not mean to, by any means, offend anyone.”
“I wish I had censored that word,” she said to the crowd. “It came out without thought.”
Student government senator Daniel Ojo didn’t buy Sewell’s misguided excuse.
“So, you didn’t censor the N-word, but you definitely censored f—,” Ojo said. “Like, what’s more damaging to people? There is no word that I can say to describe a white person that is completely damaging to their character … that has like big historical context to it that can damage someone, but there are a plethora of words that can describe and damage minor, marginalized students.”