The freedom of expression, guaranteed by the First Amendment, is one of the core principles of this nation. About one year ago, the Washington Post changed its slogan to “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” We couldn’t agree more.
In part, that’s why the Trinitonian strives to bring you the most in-depth coverage of campus. We offer news and opinions that you can’t find anywhere else.
As a private university, Trinity is not legally required to extend First Amendment privileges to students. But the administration’s commitment to the value of the First Amendment, detailed in a 2010 university webpage titled “Student Rights and Responsibilities” and prefaced by a history of protest and negotiations extending to at least the 1960s, grants the freedom of expression that allows us to work for you.
But some questionable events at Trinity leave us curious about where the university wants to draw the line. Consider Milo Yiannopoulos’ 2016 lecture in Laurie Auditorium, organized by Tigers for Liberty. Trinity Progressives, Black Student Union and Trinity Diversity Connection had organized a Diversity Dialogue on the topic of microaggressions a month prior; Milo railed against the concept with a foul mouth and an acrimonious attitude.
Then came Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative author and filmmaker. His 2017 lecture, partly paid for by Young America’s Foundation, prompted students, faculty and staff to debate his views. Student organizers Manfred and Jonah Wendt felt the backlash when students returned event flyers to their dorm, replete with sarcastic handwritten notes.
Most recently, the Trinity Progressives brought Bernie Sanders to campus last Friday. The event seemed less contentious, though conservative students charge that another D’Souza wouldn’t have so easily been given the platform offered to Sanders on very short notice. Our Revolution Texas co-sponsored the event, which was more a political rally than an educational lecture. Campus’ prevailing liberal disposition certainly influenced his quick reception.
Are liberal and conservative groups’ events held to the same standards? What should those standards be? Should they be up to students, as hot-headed and impulsive as we can be?
If administrators are wary of students getting played by outside groups, perhaps conditions on co-funded and co-sponsored events are in order. Or maybe attendance to such events could be restricted to students only. Would D’Souza or Bernie have found it worthwhile to talk to only a hundred or so students, rather than a thousand-plus supporters each? Color us skeptical.
Whatever the standards, they should be public and transparent. We look forward to hearing more from the university’s new Event Review Committee about the policies they wish to codify and implement.
And we all should keep a close eye on the freedoms promised in Trinity’s statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Staff editorials and articles compiled by multiple staff members appear here. To view an individual staff member's posts, find his or her name in our staff indices.