News reports over the past weekend detailed a decision by officials at Texas Southern University in Houston to revoke an invitation for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn to speak at commencement. The action came after a petition signed by 850 people protested his appearance. TSU is a historically black university established in 1927.
This represents another sad chapter in which a university decides on a speaker based solely on political perspective. The record of universities either revoking an invitation to speak or having students shout down unpopular speakers in protest continues to grow. It is tragic that university administrations continue to allow and sometimes even support such appalling intolerance of free speech. The petition against Cornyn specifically cited his confirmation votes for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. If there’s a difference of opinion, fair enough. Differing opinions can be expressed in a civil manner. Each semester I teach my ethics students that one of the many brilliant concepts our Founders adopted was the marketplace of ideas, generally credited to the British poet John Milton. We are gradually losing awareness of that founding principle.
For my money, John Cornyn is a pretty good guy. He had a solid record as attorney general in Texas. He was reasoned in his opinions, and he was quite supportive of open government, including open records and open meetings. There are plenty of extremists in the GOP camp, just as there are extremists on the Democratic side. John Cornyn isn’t an extremist. He’s now named on the short list of those President Trump is considering to replace fired FBI Director James Comey. Truthfully, Cornyn would be an excellent choice. But I would actually prefer that he continue his leadership role representing Texas in the United States Senate.