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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Texas Senate State Affairs Committee holds free speech hearing in LBJ

Texas+Senate+State+Affairs+Committee+chair%2C+Sen.+Joan+Huffman+uses+her+cell+phone+to+time+public+testimony+from+hearing+attenders%2C+Jan.+31.%0APhoto+by+%0ACarrington+Tatuml+%7C+Opinions+Editor
Texas Senate State Affairs Committee chair, Sen. Joan Huffman uses her cell phone to time public testimony from hearing attenders, Jan. 31. Photo by Carrington Tatuml | Opinions Editor

The Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs held a hearing Jan. 31 in the LBJ Student Center ballroom regarding free speech on college campuses in Texas.
The committee consists of nine state senators, eight of whom sought to “ascertain any restrictions on freedom of speech rights that Texas students face in expressing their views on campus along with freedoms of the press, religion, and assembly. Recommend policy changes that protect First Amendment rights and enhance the free speech environment on campus,” according to the public hearing notice.
Free speech on campus was one of several topics in higher education Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus charged lawmakers with addressing prior to the 2019 session.
The official hearing notice was Jan. 4 at 11:53 a.m., according to one of Sen. Joann Huffman’s communication aids and the physical copy of the meeting log in the Texas capitol.
Students and community members from across Texas and across party lines from both public and private schools had the opportunity to address free speech on college campuses.
The cohort of students and general public was joined by administration, professors, religious affiliate organizations and student media organizations—who had the opportunity, either by serving on a panel or addressing the Senate in the public forum part of the meeting, to explain their concerns to the committee or illustrate a policy change to consider for implementing.
“Our challenge is to create a learning environment that is simultaneously supportive and inclusive on one hand, but also protective of what some find unpopular and even offensive expression on the other,” Texas State President Denise Trauth said.
The majority of Trauth’s testimony focused on Texas State’s policy as it relates to free speech on campus and the First Amendment.
“This challenge can only be addressed through the educational process, and at the end of the day, that is what a university is all about,” Trauth said.
Administrators from The University of Texas System, the Texas Tech system, Southern Methodist University, Texas Southern University and the Texas A&M University system, followed suit and explained free speech policies on their campuses to inform the Senate committee on current institutional practices.
Throughout the public forum, President Trauth was questioned by students over her condemnation of a controversial opinions column published last semester by the student publication The University Star. In the students’ critiques, they highlighted that Trauth labeled the column racist but refused to take similar action and haste when addressing “white supremacist” or “anti-Semitic” flyers and banners on campus.
Giving testimony also was the author of “Your DNA is an abomination,” Rudy Martinez. In his testimony, Martinez stated he greeted Trauth and asked her how it felt to have painted a target on his back and said Trauth responded by saying, “how does it feel to have painted a target on Texas State’s back?”
The assistant vice president of communication, Matt Flores was asked to confirm or deny Martinez’s statement. Flores explained that the “president does not comment on private conversations with other individuals.”

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