In-House Counsel

University lawyer submits resignation after using N-word to make point about free speech

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An assistant general counsel for the University of North Texas submitted her resignation Friday after an outcry over her use of a racial epithet at an event to discuss hate speech.

Caitlin Sewell had used the N-word on Thursday at an event called “When Hate Comes to Campus,” report the North Texas Daily, the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle.

“It’s impossible to talk about the First Amendment without saying horrible things, like, you know, ‘You’re just a dumb n- - - - -, and I hate you,’ ” Sewell said. “That alone, that’s protected speech.”

“If you walk into the Dean of Students office and start screaming obscenities about, ‘F this place, F all of you, y’all are all f-ing stupid,’ they can escort you out and do that immediately.”

Sewell said the student using the F-word in her example was not protected because he or she was not in a public forum. Sewell did not use the F-word, although she did use the racial slur.

Several people at the event condemned Sewell for using the epithet. One of them was Yolian Ogbu, the school’s student government association president.

“We’re living in a white supremacist system, we have to understand that,” Ogbu said during a panel discussion. “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.”

University of North Texas Chancellor Lesa Roe and President Neal Smatresk issued a statement on Twitter.

“We strongly believe in a culture that embraces, and vehemently defends, inclusion,” they said. “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.”

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