VIDEO: Campus cop blocks students from promoting conservative group
Students were told to get permission or possibly face charges of criminal trespassing.
A campus police officer actively blocked students on a public university campus from speaking to their peers about a new conservative student organization last month.
In videos obtained exclusively by Campus Reform, a University of Texas at Dallas campus police officer told multiple students to keep walking and blocked students from talking to two female UT-Dallas students who were promoting a new, school-recognized conservative club they started on campus—a Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) chapter—while also advocating for gun rights on campus.
“You, listen to what I’m saying,” Officer Tad Palmer said. “You have to get permission. Either get permission or you can be criminally trespassed.”
The students told that officer that they had been approached by other campus safety officials who told the students they were within their rights to sign up students to join their club. They did not have a table and chairs—only signs.
“Anytime we have anyone soliciting for whatever it is—political in nature or personal—whatever it is a lot of people tend to start calling in, and it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, it’s just that there’s a process you have to go through,” Palmer said. “I’m not saying you can’t do this, but you have to follow our process, does that make sense?”
Although UT-Dallas is a public institution, Palmer incorrectly told the students that the school is “a state university, it’s private.” He told the students they would need permission from the dean’s office and eventually took down the students’ personal information in case a police report would need to be filed in the future.
Palmer told the students that they were able to stand outside with their signs, but they were not allowed to sign up students for a club or ask for signatures for a petition.
“When you start soliciting signatures for a movement, ideal, philosophy, political agenda—now you’re soliciting,” he said.
“But when you go from talking about NeW to talking about open carry, anything other than that, now you’ve stepped off into solicitation,” Palmer said.
Kim Winkler, associate dean of students, also met with the students and compared them to Girl Scouts selling cookies outside of a grocery store and pressuring shoppers to buy their cookies.
“People should be allowed to come and go and do what they need to do without having to engage with anyone,” Winkler said.
She encouraged the students to reserve a table in a common area and wait for their peers to approach them and begin conversations.
“You cannot initiate that type of a discussion while people are kind of coming and going and doing their thing,” Winkler said. “But what I don’t know is—and what I’ve honestly never been asked before is if you could just be sitting there out there or if it has to be in the Comet Cafe [student union], if it has to be a designated area.”
Winkler said the problem wasn’t their signs—but the students “asking” questions of their peers as it should be their peers’ choice if they “want to deal with it.” Winkler promised to follow up with the two students with the exact policies they had broken but had yet to do so by time of publication.
Palmer also questioned the students’ knowledge of concealed carry statistics.
“I’m not advocating for one side or the other,” Palmer said. “Obviously as a police officer, safety is paramount, and I’ve been in the military, too. I just want to make sure that when you guys are out here, you’ve got some really good stats to back up what it is...because people are going to ask. You’re hitting on a very raw nerve.”
Palmer did say he was appreciative of how respectful the students were during their interactions and said that as a police officer, he tries to “go the extra mile” for students on campus.
Britni Lecroy, a UT-Dallas student, approached the students to inquire about their signs but was shooed away by Palmer. Lecroy told Campus Reform that she didn’t see the need for the officer to do that, and said she would have joined the students in their protest if she didn’t have class.
“I believe that everyone who is physically and mentally fit to own a concealed carry license should have the right to do so,” Lecroy told Campus Reform in an interview. “This includes on and off campus.”
Lecroy said that most of the opposition to concealed carry on campus that she’s encountered stems from people feeling “unsafe” at the possibility that a stranger might have a gun or that a student would use the firearm if an argument became too heated.
“The point is that guns don't kill people,” Lecroy said. “People kill people. Someone who is mentally ill and out with a vengeance does not care about gun laws.”
“I don't know about you but I want to defend myself if I have to,” she said. “Using deadly force is always a last resort but still, it is a resort. As a very petite woman, I am all too aware of women of my same stature becoming abducted because they had no form of defense.”
UT-Dallas Police Chief Larry Zacharias told Campus Reform in an email that Palmer responded to a “complaint” and “took the action.” According to him, an official police report was not taken; the students’ information was recorded, and the “activity is only documented by computer notes.”
Zacharias stated the University of Texas Board of Regents prohibits solicitation on campus barring any sort of exception.
Zacharias told Campus Reform that the students did not have permission “for the activity” of standing outside and collecting support of their student group.
“Officer Palmer also advised he chose this course of action because their activity had nothing to do with the purpose of the organization,” Zacharias told Campus Reform in an email.
UT-Dallas is the second institution in Texas this semester to block students from promoting their student group on campus. In February, administrators and campus police at Blinn College, a public community college, threatened to kick a student off campus while she was promoting a new Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) club while holding a sign about gun rights.
“Gun rights on campus?” an administrator told the student. “Hey, I’m not against guns, okay? But on campus, I’m not so sure.”
Winkler declined to comment to Campus Reform and instead directed any media inquiries to the communications office. UT-Dallas officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Campus Reform.
According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), in-state students pay approximately $10,864 to attend UT-Dallas.
Campus correspondents Bethany Salgado and Antonia Okafor contributed to this article.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn