During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the First Amendment and free speech on college campuses, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized university administrators for their role in playing “speech police” to suppress speech on campus.
Cruz began by saying, “Universities are meant to be a challenging environment for young people to encounter ideas they’ve never seen, they’ve never imagined, and that they might passionately disagree with. If universities become homogenizing institutions that are focused on inculcating and indoctrinating, rather than challenging, we will lose what makes universities great.”
Cruz claimed college administrators have “become complicit” in policing speech, stating administrators “reward” people who threaten violence by canceling speeches of those who they personally disagree with:
It’s tragic what is happening at so many American universities, where college administrators and faculties have become complicit in functioning, essentially, as speech police, deciding what speech is permissible and what speech isn’t. You see violent protests, the senior senator from California referred to, enacting effectively a heckler’s veto where violent thugs come in and say, ‘This particular speaker, I disagree with what he or she has to say. And therefore, I will threaten physical violence if the speech is allowed to happen. And far too many colleges and universities quietly roll over and say, ‘Okay, the threat of violence? We will effectively reward the violent criminals and muzzle the First Amendment.
Cruz asserted the college administrators who play a role in suppressing speech are showing that they are “afraid” of having their own views challenged:
When you see college faculties and administrators being complicit or active players in silencing those with opposing views, what they are saying is they are afraid. They are afraid that their ideas cannot stand the dialectic, cannot stand opposition, cannot stand facts, or reasoning, or anything on the other side. And it is only through force and power that their ideas can be accepted.
During his remarks, Cruz also defended the right to free speech even for those who hold views widely regarded as repulsive:
I am one who agrees with John Stuart Mill. The best solution to for bad ideas, for bad speech, is more speech and better ideas. Are there people with noxious ideas in the world? Absolutely. The Nazis are grotesque and repulsive and evil. And under our constitution, they have a right to speech, and the rest of us have a moral obligation to denounce what they say. The Ku Klux Klan are a bunch of racist, bigoted thugs, who have a right to express their views. And we have an obligation, then, to confront those views, which are weak, poisonous, and wrong, and confront them with truth. We don’t need to use brute force to silence them because truth is far more powerful than force.
While giving his opening statement, Cruz also noted, “The First Amendment is not about opinions that are right and reasonable. The First Amendment is about opinions that you passionately disagree with and the right of others to express them.”
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