Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#TXLEGE: Senate Free Speech hearing correctly identifies problem (solutions = anyone's guess)....

"When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them."
Acts 5:33

We attended today's Senate State Affairs committee hearing about free speech on college campuses.  They did a good job asking questions.  Whether they promote good answers remains to be seen.

The hearing began with two hours of invited testimony from bureaucrats representing the various public university systems around the state.  They predictably filibustered and gave Senators the runaround in denying the had a problem.  Honestly, they didn't say anything interesting.

During the third and fourth invited panels, various speakers from across the political spectrum described their experience navigating the morass related to free speech on Texas' campuses.  Contrary to the rosy picture painted by the bureaucrats, Tony McDonald of Empower Texans described his experiences during his college/law school days with YCT.  McDonald proposed eliminating "free speech zones", not charging "security fees" to student organizations, and eliminating requirements for "mandatory faculty advisors" for student groups.  Glenn Maxey of the Texas Democrat Party largely echoed McDonald's testimony but, citing some of his own experiences as an LGBT activist in the 1980's, stressed the need for protections to apply equally to groups on the left as groups on the right.

During the fourth invited panel, Senator Birdwell (finally!) identified the real solution: the Regents need to do their job!!!  Birdwell specifically bemoaned that the university bureaucracies deliberately keep Regents in the dark about the extent of the problem.  Of course, Birdwell neglected to mention that the various Boards of Regents already have the authority they need to eliminate the bureaucracies in question and...well...they haven't.

We built upon Senator Birdwell's comments in our testimony.  We testified that the real responsibility for protecting free speech on campus lies with the Boards of Regents.  We pointed out, furthermore, that at this time last year we told the Texas Senate (and Senator Birdwell in particular) that if they confirmed the last round of UT regent nominees, political correctness (including this free speech stuff) would get worse.  Every Senator on that panel then voted to confirm the Regents in question.  One year later, here we are.   We also pointed out that, among elected officials, it's the Governor (who appoints the regents) who's primarily responsible for public university governance.  It's worth pointing out that, in four panels and four hours of invited testimony, not a single currently serving Regent from any university system was asked to speak.

During public testimony, several left leaning students voiced concerns about the backlash to a student newspaper columnist who publised a highly imflammatory essay about race last fall.  Specifically, they described death threats and doxxing experienced by the author of said essay.  On the other hand, several of those same left leaning students talked about how racist flyers posted around both the UT-Austin and Texas State campuses last year created an "unsafe" enviroment.  Let's clarify: death threats and doxxing aren't cool...but when you lump flyers (no matter how distasteful) with those sorts of physical threats, you undermine your own credibility.

Bottom Line: We'll know if the Senate is serious about this issue when it takes up regent confirmations next year....

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