In his opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses,” Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offered a robust defense of free speech, criticizing colleges and universities that have “quietly rolled over” to intolerant and bullying liberal student bodies.
“If universities become homogenizing institutions that are focused on inculcating and indoctrinating rather than challenging, we will lose what makes universities great,” Cruz said. “The First Amendment is about opinions that you passionately disagree with and the right of others to express them.”
In recent years, conservative speakers and students have been the target of left-wing vitriol, and even violence on college campuses. Protests against speakers such as Ann Coulter turned into violent riots involving property destruction, assault, and fire. Progressive students wage physical war against what they deem everything they disagree with as “hate speech.”
The mainstream media have normalized this violence against conservatives. University professors have defended the uncivilized and illiberal temperament of their students, and many faculty members have outright called for violence against Republicans.
Cruz laid these charges against campus faculty before the judiciary committee.
“College administrators and faculties have become complicit in functioning essentially as speech police – deciding what speech is permissible and what speech isn’t,” Cruz said. “You see violent protests … 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.”
Far too many colleges and universities “effectively reward the violent criminals and muzzle the First Amendment.”
A recent study from the Knight Foundation found that a majority of students believe “the climate on campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.”
“What an indictment of our university system,” Cruz declared. “If ideas are strong, if ideas are right, you don’t need to muzzle the opposition. You should welcome the opposition. 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.”
Senator Cruz said that even people with “noxious ideas” in the world have a right under our Constitution to voice those ideas.
“The Nazis are grotesque, and repulsive, and evil. And under our Constitution they have a right to speak, and the rest of us have a moral obligation to denounce what they say,” said Cruz. “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 more powerful than force."