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UNT Staffer Resigns After Using Racial Slur in Panel Discussion on First Amendment

'This language is never condoned in our community which prides itself on our diversity and caring nature,' UNT president says

The University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk says a member of the university's legal staff has resigned after using a racial epithet in a speech about free speech Thursday night.

Smatresk condemned the use of the slur, which was uttered by Caitlin Sewell, a member of the university's legal staff, during a panel discussion on campus.

The UNT school newspaper reported that Sewell, the UNT System assistant general counsel, said the N-word during a "When Hate Comes to Campus" event on campus. [[564657802,C]]

The University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk released a statement Thursday night after a member of the school's legal staff used a racial epithet during a panel discussion on campus.

Smatresk later released a statement on Twitter saying,"we strongly believe in a culture that embraces, and vehemently defends, inclusion. While Ms. Sewell was trying to make a point about First Amendment speech, the references used are never condoned in our community, which prides itself on our diversity and caring nature."

Smatresk then said, "This morning, Ms. Sewell submitted her resignation effective immediately."

An audio recording was provided to NBC 5 by Mikaela Craig who was in the audience.

In the recording, Sewell is heard saying "If I said something offensive… 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," Sewell said. "Um, you know, 'You’re just a dumb n***** and I hate you.' That alone, that’s protected speech." [[564662381,C]]

The leaders of multiple student organizations openly called for Sewell to be fired.

"I really think she could have said just 'n-word' and everybody would have known exactly what she meant," said Cameron Combs, President of the UNT Black Student Union. "She could have kept on going and given other examples. She did not have to say 'Dumb n-words.'"

Yolian Ogbu is President of the Student Government Association and was part of the panel discussion Thursday night. Once she processed what Sewell said, Ogbu stood up and physically took the microphone from the attorney’s hands. [[564652582,C]]

"She explicitly said a racist slur," Ogbu said Friday. "I completely understand having to talk about free speech and the fact that we have the right to say what we want to say. But she is someone that serves on the general counsel for this university, is a lawyer and, quite frankly, is an adult and should be looking at this issue as common sense. [She] could honestly describe free speech in so many other ways than just saying racial slurs."

The Student Government Association joined the Black Student Union and UNT NAACP to release a joint statement and list of demands, largely centered around the need for mandatory race and diversity training.

"This is going to be a long conversation, most definitely civil," said Ogbu. "But it’s time that a lot of students from marginalized communities on this university that make up pretty much the majority of this university start having their voices heard."

Ogbu tells NBC 5 that she and other students met with the Vice President of Student Affairs on Friday. They are awaiting a meeting with President Smatresk.

You can read the full story from the North Texas Daily by clicking here.

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