A number of Texas universities have joined the chorus of colleges nationwide encouraging high school students to participate in anti-gun walkouts and protests. They say it will not hurt prospective students’ chances for admission. Several institutions of higher learning even took to social media to share their messages supporting “civic engagement.”
This follows the decision made by some school districts to ban demonstrations because they interfered with instructional class time. Breitbart Texas reported that the Needville Independent School District was the first to prohibit students from participating in anti-gun protests that called for students to walk out of their classes. Superintendent Curtis Rhodes stated that while “sensitive to violence in schools” including the Parkland, Florida, shooting where 17 died, the district would not tolerate disruptions during school hours.
“There is a ‘movement’ attempting to stage walkouts/disruptions of the school through social media and/or other media outlets,” noted the superintendent. “Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for three days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension.”
Since then, Breitbart Texas reported that Seguin ISD and North East ISD barred protests during classes. So did the Houston-area Beaumont ISD. The districts cautioned participation would be considered a violation of rules in the Student Code of Conduct. Still, the Seguin and North East school districts encouraged students to protest peacefully outside of the school day.
On Tuesday, the University of Texas at Austin Admissions Office reassured high school students who may face disciplinary actions for protesting that this will not affect their admission chances. The office tweeted that the university is “committed to the principles of free inquiry and expression,” the “expansion of knowledge,” and the “freedom to exchange ideas.” A student’s admission status “will not be affected by exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
In 2016, enrolled UT Austin students expressed themselves by protesting the state’s then new “campus carry” law. They armed themselves with 4,500 dildos for a “Cocks Not Glocks” demonstration.
— UT Austin Admissions (@BeALonghorn) February 27, 2018
Karen Adler, UT System spokewoman, told The Daily Texan the decision to factor in or out any disciplinary actions affecting student protesters would be up to individual UT institutions.
UT Dallas said it “would not turn away any qualified students based on their participation in peaceful protests” while UT San Antonio stated prospective “students need not worry about peaceful protesting even if it results in disciplinary actions from their school district,” according to the Daily Texan. Same goes for UT Rio Grande Valley and UT Permian Basin.
Over the weekend, the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Undergraduate Admissions Office tweeted, “SMU values civic engagement and civil discussion.” An applicant’s admission status will “in no way be jeopardized for participating in peaceful protest.”
A message from the Office of Undergraduate Admission at SMU: pic.twitter.com/0gRUIuY8QM
— SMU Admission Office (@SMUAdmission) February 25, 2018
SMU even replied to its admission’s office tweet, restating the message.
This week, Texas A&M spokeswoman Amy Smith told the Houston Chronicle that as long as the protesting was “lawful,” prospective student applicants will not be affected. She said that A&M’s “holistic review process” credits students for exhibiting leadership abilities. “We’re looking for students who represent the core values of Texas A&M and part of that is civic engagement.”
Breitbart Texas reached out to Smith to get a better idea of where Texas A&M drew the line, especially if a protest turns violent. Smith responded by email, “If a protest becomes violent and someone is harmed and/or community or other property damaged then our previous statement still applies. We support the right of students to protest as long as it is lawful.”
The University of Houston and Texas State University also told the Chronicle that students disciplined for participating in peaceful protests will not impact their applications. UT Tyler agreed this would “not help or hinder” a student’s admission, although spokesman Lucas Roebuck added the caveat, stating “unless that discipline impacted their GPA negatively to the point it fell below our standards or prevented the student from graduating.”
On Sunday, Rice University tweeted they “encourage responsible citizenship among our current students and high school applicants.” They said disciplinary sanctions for participating in peaceful protests by students “will not negatively impact” student admissions.
Rice Univ. respects the right of free expression and encourages responsible citizenship among our current students and high school applicants. Disciplinary sanctions for participating in peaceful protests by students will not negatively impact their admission to the university.
— Rice University (@RiceUniversity) February 25, 2018
Rice University President David Leebron later tweeted his viewpoint that the “tragic consequences of violence from guns is an important issue.” He reiterated the admissions office position on protests and encouraged “civic engagement and research.”
Our admissions office has made very clear that participation in peaceful protests will not harm a student’s chance of admission to Rice. The tragic consequences of violence from guns is an important issue, and speech, civic engagement and research on it should be encouraged. https://t.co/KskpGV0n9A
— David Leebron (@davidleebron) February 25, 2018
Breitbart Texas attempted to reach Leebron to learn if the university’s stance on student admissions will change if demonstrations become violent. He did not respond.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.