By Shannon Sampson
SAN MARCOS — The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs held a public hearing Wednesday, February 2nd, concerning First Amendment rights and restrictions on college campuses.
Tensions have risen concerning what opinions and statements students can or cannot say or publish while on campus. Last November, the University Star published an opinions article that gained Texas State University unwanted national attention concerning First Amendment infringement rights. University President Denise Trauth responded by calling for the newspaper to remove the article.
Prior to the hearing, former University Star opinions columnist and author of controversial article “Your DNA is an Abomination” Rudy Martinez was eager to hear Trauth’s testimony.
“I certainly hope that Denise Trauth has to atone for her sins as far as the presence of white nationalists, not just on this campus but around our community and her really not sort of pursuing those responsible for placing violent sort of imagery on our campus,” said Martinez. “I hope she has to speak on how she reacted to my column which I feel, or know rather, was well within my First Amendment rights.”
During her testimony, Trauth did not address any details concerning the article or the flyers but said during a post-testimony interview that Martinez’s rights were not infringed with the removal of his article. Trauth showed support for the Star editors on their decision to discontinue publishing Martinez’s articles.
“Rudy was not fired because he was never an employee. He was a freelance opinion writer. So, the student editors made the decision that they were not going to ask him on a freelance basis to write more opinion columns and that is the right of the editors,” said Trauth. “People need to understand that the University Star has the exact same protections as the Austin-American Statesman.”
According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the First Amendment is under attack by those “who cannot bear to be offended by ideas that they oppose.” Republican candidate for Texas House District 45, Naomi Narvaiz, attended the hearing and mentioned a concern for First Amendment rights concerning those with conservative opinions.
“I believe when it comes to conservative speakers we have seen that,” said Narvaiz. “I think that everyone needs to realize that we all want to speak our own truth and our own opinions, and we have the right to do that.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there is a clear line between free speech and threats or targeted harassment. Incidents involving targeted harassment should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“Restricting such speech may be attractive to college administrators as a quick fix to address campus tensions,” said the ACLU. “But real social change comes from hard work to address the underlying causes of inequality and bigotry, not from purified discourse.”
Featured image by Shannon Sampson.