(File photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The president of the University of North Texas issued a statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ student community in the wake of the March 2 protest that erupted during the campus speech of Jeffrey Younger, a father who lost a child-custody battle with his ex-wife after contesting his nine-year-old son’s transgender diagnosis.

“Following a helpful meeting with students who gathered outside the Hurley Administration Building recently, I want to state my unequivocal support for the queer and trans members of the UNT community,” Neal Smatresk wrote in a statement Wednesday. “Offensive statements directed at these students by a student organization are abhorrent. It is unacceptable when people are hateful, or groups go out of their way to bully or demean marginalized populations. There is no place for this behavior on our campus.”

Smatresk’s criticism was directed at the UNT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas, which hosted Younger. Younger, as well as UNT YCT co-founder Kelly Neidert, were subject to harassment and intimidation by far-left activists during the event to the point that police officers had to evacuate them from the building. The pair also confronted a large mob of black-clad protesters outside, angrily screaming expletives and epithets and holding signs calling Younger’s testimony, which he never got the opportunity to share because he was drowned out by yelling, “hate speech.” Younger is also running for the Texas House of Representatives on a conservative “restoration” platform, which includes banning gender-reconstructive surgery for transgender children.

The “offensive statements” the president mentioned may have been in reference to certain tweets from YCT, including a poster that read “criminalize child transitions” and “transgender people do not exist.”

“Very soon, I will help facilitate a meeting between members of the trans community, representatives from the UNT Police Department, and members of the UNT administration. In addition, a listening session for all students and a Town Hall on First Amendment rights and Title IX will occur prior to the end of the spring semester. We are focused on learning from recent experiences and events that have impacted our community,” the college’s president said.

A group of students, faculty, and staff members congregated on March 11 on campus for a third demonstration to meet with Smatresk personally to air their grievances over the supposed poor treatment of LGBTQ issues at the school. During a March 4 protest two days after Younger’s appearance, students had promised there would be yet another sequel unless the administration immediately addressed their concerns.

“I was really concerned when I heard one student say they didn’t feel safe on campus,” Joanne Woodard, Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access vice president, told the North Texas Daily. “Nobody should ever have to feel like that.”

While Smatresk said he personally opposed Younger’s invitation by YCT, he said their First Amendment right to host speakers and engage in conversation left him “handcuffed.”

“I abhor what YCT has said and done,” Smatresk said. “We’ll take actions within the constraints of law and the constraints of the policy we have developed.”

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