In 2017, Texas A&M Blocked White Nationalist’s Event. Could New Campus Free Speech Law Prevent That?

AUSTIN — In 2017, Texas A&M University blocked white nationalist Richard Spencer from speaking on campus because of security concerns. That same year, Texas Southern University shut down an event featuring a conservative state lawmaker who drew protests from liberal faculty and students.Conservatives cried censorship, and college students were mocked for being oversensitive and accused of trying to drown out opposing viewpoints.So this year, the Legislature passed, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law, a campus free speech bill — even though he said it was a shame the law is needed.“Some campuses are banning free speech on college campuses — well no more,” Abbott said in a video he posted on Twitter of the bill signing. “Shouldn’t have to do it, First Amendment guarantees it. Now it’s law in Texas.”But how will this change the climate on campuses? University leaders say they’re still hammering out some of the details before school starts in the fall.Under the law, campuses will no longer be allowed to designate "free speech zones," ensuring that school leaders acknowledge all outdoor areas as appropriate for free speech. Schools also can’t set exorbitant security fees based on how controversial a speaker is expected to be — instead, fees have to be set based on crowd size and venue.Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, a sponsor of the bill, said the new law moves the state in the right direction. Cain was the lawmaker who drew protests when TSU’s chapter of the conservative-leaning Federalist Society invited him to speak.Cain, a far-right lawmaker and member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, planned to speak to students at the historically black university about the legislative session, but he was drowned out by students and faculty protesters who accused him of being racist.The TSU president shut down the event, claiming it was not registered with the university even though it was registered with the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.  Continue reading...

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