Some UNT students petition for commencement speaker other than Governor Greg Abbott

Some students at the University of North Texas are not happy with the person speaking at graduation next month.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott will speak at the inaugural university-wide commencement ceremony.

Christy Medrano set up a Facebook page called "Abbott Free UNT" soon after learning the governor would be the commencement speaker. It calls on seniors to get up and walk out, when Abbott takes the stage. It has nearly a thousand likes.

A petition has also been created asking the President of UNT to find another speaker.

"A lot of students were very angry galvanized so we figured let's take it to one of the other accessible open forums which is social media," Medrano said.

Abbott, opposes same sex marriage and the backlash comes mainly from the campus's LGBT community who harshly criticizes Abbott saying he has not been friendly or open to them...calling the governor among other things, a bigot.

"There are so many students who are unhappy with this decision," said Elizabeth Webb.

Webb, a member of GLAD is a senior.

"If my other fellow students class of 2015 if they decide that they're gonna walk out I might just stand up and walk out too," she said.

UNT President Neal Smatresk says they extended the invitation to Governor Abbott soon after he was elected.

"And we felt it was appropriate he's the chief executive officer of all higher ed, and the highest elected official in the state"

Smatresk disagrees with those who criticize Abbott's record on education or diversity saying he's an advocate for UNT.

He's also, free.

"Other speakers it turns out can cost a lot of money up to 500 thousand and a private jet and we didn't think that was fiscally responsible," he explained.

As for the backlash?

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and to their freedom of expression and no where is that protected more than on a college campus, in fact I would argue that we must be doing our job right we expect our students to be passionate to be engaged to care deeply and to be active," Smatraski said.


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