VIDEO: UT-Austin students react to doxing threat against conservative students
- As conservative students arrived on campus at UT-Austin, they faced more worry than the usual freshman frenzy.
- A Twitter account in June threatened to dox incoming students who join conservative student groups.
- To get students' reactions to these threats, Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips traveled to Texas for UT-Austin's freshman orientation.
This fall semester, students wanting to join a conservative student group at the University of Texas-Austin face the very real threat of doxing.
Following a threatening tweet from an anarchist group in the city, incoming UT-Austin students were warned that their personal information could be shared to the public if they become members of Young Conservatives of Texas or Turning Point USA, both conservative groups.
This thinly veiled threat, first reported by Campus Reform in June, prompted outrage around the country and led the university to reach out to the Texas attorney general’s office in search of legal remedies. With students at UT-Austin now back on campus for the school year, Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips traveled to Austin during UT-Austin's freshman orientation week to speak with students about their thoughts on this threat and whether they believe it would deter them or other conservative students from joining a conservative student group.
“I think it’s against freedom," one student said when asked for her opinion on the doxing threat.
Another added, "you're just hindering people to join what they want to join and that's not part of the Austin experience, right? You go to college to find yourself and you should be able to find yourself doing whatever."
Another student admitted, “I’m not conservative, I’m actually quite liberal. But I don’t think that’s cool to threaten people."
Echoing that sentiment, another incoming freshman said: "I definitely think it's never appropriate to share anyone's personal information. That could be an act of violence." One student acknowledged that if a conservative student heard that "there could be a bad outcome in joining these groups, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't, they would just stay away."
"You're not allowing students to go out and express themselves," the student said when asked if she thought that was healthy for a campus.
In addition to that tweet, Phillips also asked students about a series of tweets from UT-Austin instructor Alex Wild in which he claimed all supporters of President Donald Trump are "nazis" and that Republicans support "ethnic cleansing."
“I think professors should be neutral. I don’t think they should tweet things like that and make their students feel uncomfortable,” one student said. Another added “I have never supported Trump… but there should be an heir of professionalism when it comes to being a professor.”
The majority of students with whom Phillips spoke said Wild's tweets could cause conservative students in his class to feel uncomfortable.
"That could be a little bit concerning for students," one incoming freshman said. Another said it could "impact the students' attitude with him."
"If you were a conservative student in that class, would you feel uncomfortable knowing that your professor thought you were a nazi?" Phillips asked students.
"I would if I were a conservative student," one freshman said. Another replied, "I wouldn't feel free to express myself." And a third student told Phillips that it would create a "weird atmosphere knowing how the professor feels."
Some students were not as supportive of their conservative peers, however, with one saying, “I don’t know the university position on where faculty can stand… but I think that’s a perfectly fine tweet, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
UT-Austin, for its part, responded to online threats being made against students by saying, “students should never be targeted or face harassment for their affiliations, political beliefs or any other reason. The anonymous group behind this doxing is not affiliated with the university, is not a registered student group, and should not present itself in that way. As they did last fall, University Police are continuing to work to ensure the safety of any targeted students and monitor for any potential criminal actions.”
With regard to the university's letter to the attorney general's office asking for any other possible legal remedies, the university told Campus Reform that the office "agreed that we are taking all available steps under the current circumstances" and that "if a specific threat is made against an individual, we will refer the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities."
And as far as Wild's tweets are concerned, the university told Campus Reform, "the university follows federal and state law on issues related to freedom of speech and is committed to the principles of free inquiry. As such, members of the university community have the right to hold, vigorously defend, and express their personal ideas and opinions."
Wild has not responded to Campus Reform's repeated requests for comment.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Cabot_Phillips