Texas Southern University in Houston canceled a scheduled commencement address Saturday by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate.
The decision at the historically black college is due to a student petition demanding that Cornyn be blocked from speaking and urging that all graduating students and their families “express their discontent” if he does. The school’s decision comes in the middle of the growing debate about free speech on college campuses. Student protests nationwide have caused several cancellations of mostly conservative speakers.
The trend of protesting against these conservative speakers is the epitome of censorship. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was booed at a commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a black college in Daytona Beach, Florida. DeVos, amid heckling, boos, and graduates’ turning their backs, appealed for respectful dissent. “Let’s choose to hear each other out,” she said.
Several weeks ago a student group at the University of California, Berkeley, convinced that school to cancel a speech by conservative commentator Ann Coulter. Cornyn aides said the decision to cancel his appearance was the school’s, not his. “Sen. Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the University in the future,” said a Cornyn spokesman.
Texas Southern released a statement saying that the decision was made for the sake of the students and their families. “Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come. We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families.”
The petition was sponsored by 26-year-old Rebecca Trevino, who describes herself on her Twitter page as “Chicana. Mujer Power. lg[b]t. Activist. Catholic. LMT. TSU Social Work student.”
In an interview Friday, she said she had no desire to censor Cornyn, but rather to represent the values of the school. “What I want people to realize is that this is our commencement,” Trevino said. “This is something we’ve worked hard for, and we want someone who represents us and our values.”
She posted the petition online a week ago, after hearing about Cornyn’s invitation. “This is an issue that’s important to my classmates and me,” she added. “We have a lot of pride in our school, and we’re very protective of who comes by.”
In an online appeal for signatures, she said that “Cornyn and his political party create and support policies that cause harm to marginalized communities.” She also cited Cornyn’s votes to approve DeVos, Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, and his support for voter ID law. What this shows is the petition was not so much about the speaker but the speaker’s party.
Texas Southern, founded in 1927, is considered one of the most diverse universities in the country. About three-fourths of the students are African-American, with the rest a mix of other races, including Hispanics, whites, and international students.
Free speech has been thrown out the window in an attempt to be politically correct.
The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan was a graduate of Texas Southern after racial segregation prevented her from attending the University of Texas at Austin.
When I was applying to law schools, Texas Southern University was one of my choices being a Texas State school. I was accepted into the Thurgood Marshall School of Law there, but declined. I am even more happy with that choice given this action by the students and the school. It is a real shame that a school with such a background in the fight for equal rights has caved to the demands of students, and in doing so has thrown the concept of free speech out the window in an attempt to be politically correct.
Trevino says she wants someone to speak that represents the student’s values. U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, who will give the commencement address, certainly do not represent mine.
Jon Harris is a former Army NCO, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He is an OpsLens contributor and holds a B.S. in government and politics and an M.S. in criminal justice. This OpsLens article is used by permission.