The Texas legislature has a chance to protect free speech on its college campuses, and it should take advantage of that opportunity.
This week, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs will hold a hearing called for by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to review threats to free speech on the state’s publicly funded campuses and discuss solutions for ending those threats.
Bills to protect free speech on campus were introduced in both the Texas House and Senate last year, but were shut down in committee. Now is the time to bring these concerns back up for a vote.
Attacks on free speech on college campuses have increased in the last few years.
Campuses nationwide are experiencing protests lead by students who wish to silence their opposition rather than engage with them. They’ve also established “free speech zones” at the request of administrators and students alike where it’s “safe” to express an opinion.
Most notably we’ve seen this behavior at Berkeley, where last year violence broke out over student groups scheduling events with far-right speakers.
Texas isn’t a stranger to students shutting down those with whom they disagree. At a Federalist Society event last year at Texas Southern University, state Rep. Briscoe Cain was forced to leave the stage when protesters interrupted him mid-speech. He was then escorted from the room and told his event was canceled because the Federalist Society hadn’t followed protocol when setting up the event.
Rep. Cain saw that flimsy excuse for what it was: an appeasement of the protesters. He later stated the protests weren’t about an improperly set up event, but silencing “speech they disagree with. And the university allowed it.”
TSU also withdrew an invitation to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to speak on campus. TSU administrators have allowed mob rule to reign rather than a civil environment that hears all sides of an argument.
Students, faculty and institutions are being asked to stand up to the absurdity and demand free speech be protected on college campuses – for everyone.
Students at the University of Texas recently voted down a measure to shut down the Young Conservatives of Texas group on campus because their right to speak should be protected.
Purdue University has established a free speech policy promising that all speech will be protected on campus, not just the speech of the loudest or angriest. More states and schools should be following these examples.
College should be where students learn to have a civil disagreement, hear other’s perspectives and try to persuade with facts and logic. Opinions should be formed based on the merit of ideas rather than the roar of a protest. Campuses should encourage students to understand that free speech is for all, not just for some.
The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs must keep this in mind when hearing from the public this week and take the actions necessary to protect free speech on campus.