Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain was shouted down before he had a chance to speak at a Federalist Society event at Texas Southern University (TSU). Demonstrators called the conservative lawmaker a racist and objected to his position on transgender rights.
Then, in what may be a more serious offense to freedom of speech, TSU President Austin Lane invited the ejected disruptors back into the room and cancelled Cain’s talk, claiming that the Federalist Society had failed to schedule the event through the proper channels. (You can see a video news report of the shout-down and its aftermath here, and the Dallas Morning News story here.)
TSU’s Federalist Society says that it did in fact clear the event with the law school. Rep. Cain says that he was “greeted by campus officials, given a guest parking voucher, and brought into a room in which the administration had specifically requested the talk occur.” If additional procedures were required to arrange the talk, TSU’s administration has failed to disclose them.
But that’s beside the point. You don’t cancel a talk while a speaker’s being shouted down by students. And you don’t invite ejected disruptors back in to watch you do their bidding by silencing the speaker. President Lane should have explained the principles of free speech to the shouting students and promised to discipline disruptors. Instead, Lane has sent the worst possible message. Rep. Cain said afterwards, “It’s a sad day for universities across Texas whenever speech and a variety of views are prevented from being presented due to bullies.” He’s right.
Even if some minor procedure was omitted when Cain’s talk was arranged, the university itself is responsible for that omission, having welcomed Rep. Cain to campus and allowed his talk to begin. At that point, the students who attempted to shout Cain down were responsible for their actions. This was capitulation to the mob, pure and simple. President Lane ought to be ashamed.
The campus free-speech crisis continues, as shout-downs multiply too quickly to keep up. Weak administrators and clueless faculty are incapable of stopping the problem. It’s time for state legislatures to step in.