Thurgood Marshall Law School Tests Newton’s Third Law (Update)

It would seem unremarkable that a state legislator would be asked to give a presentation at a law school. But for Texas Representative Briscoe Cain, his invitation by the Federalist Society to speak at Texas Southern was quite remarkable.

“Today I attended an event scheduled by the TSU chapter of the Federalist Society a few months ago. I was greeted by campus officials, given a guest parking voucher, and brought into a room in which the administration had specifically requested the talk occur. Then Black Lives Matter came in and bullied the administration into ending the event. It’s a sad day for universities across Texas whenever speech and a variety of views are prevented from being presented due to bullies.”

But it gets worse.

Rep. Cain was invited to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law by the Federalist Society to talk to the students about the recent legislative special session. Instead, the event was shut down before it even started.

“No hate anywhere, you don’t get a platform here!” protesters yelled inside the room.

The words echoed through the classroom.

Was there nothing the law school could do to enable an elected representative to speak about the legislature’s special session? Of course there was. The TSU police ushered the protesters out of the room. Problem solved?

As silence filled the room, Rep. Cain finally spoke his first few words, but was cut off again, this time, by TSU President Dr. Austin lane.

“Officers, to the students out in the hallway, let them in,” Dr. Lane told the police officers.

Lane announced organizers did not take appropriate measures to schedule the speech.

“What you’re seeing today is an unapproved event,” Dr. Lane said.

First, what does it being an “unapproved event” have to do with anything? Second, why would it be “unapproved,” particularly given the fact that the FedSoc folks very specifically claim they followed all the TSU rules for putting on the event, and Lane offered nothing to suggest an “I” was undotted, except his conclusory say-so.

And third, assuming, arguendo, that TSU President Austin Lane wasn’t being totally disingenuous (because saying “full of shit” would be unnecessarily vulgar, though more appropriate) when he “announced organizers did not take appropriate measures to schedule the speech,” how does that give rise to ordering campus police to let protesters into the room to silence a speaker regardless?

“He just stands for hatred and bigotry on a scale that isn’t deserving of a place or platform here at TSU,” said protester and Thurgood Marshall School of Law student Justin Tolston.

Cain, for better or worse, was an elected representative in the Texas House. Whence does a law student get to decide the scale of deplorable that should deprive an invited, elected rep the right to speak? What did this rep do? Kick kittens? Call a transgender person by the wrong pronoun? Be inadequately woke?

“He’s anti-woman. He’s anti-LGBT. He’s trans-phobic, and so if he is actually against the existence of people and their right to exist, then no I don’t agree with all sides and it becomes more than a political issue. It’s now an issue of justice and human rights, and so I had to be here,” said protester and Thurgood Marshall School of Law student, Nneka Akubeze.

If that seems inadequately specific, and irrationally meaningless, meet the quality of thinkers attending the law school. And if Lane’s solution was to enable the silencing of Cain because . . . reasons, meet the administration that enables such thinking. This isn’t a matter of admonishing students to be open-minded, to hear all points of view, even those with which they disagree. This empowers students who can’t muster a cogent thought to storm the castle.

The administration’s response to its insanity was adorable:

Texas Southern University welcomes free speech and all viewpoints on campus as part of our collegiate experience. Today’s event, which was scheduled at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, ended early because it was not a registered university student organization event.

Our campus is open and welcoming to all state and elected officials.

Texas Southern hospitality doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Then again, very little does these days. But when conduct like this is used to silence an elected rep, it begs for a response from the victim. In Wisconsin, a bill has been introduced, and a policy established to stop protesters from silencing speakers.

The policy states that students found to have twice engaged in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others’ free speech would be suspended. Students found to have disrupted others’ free expression three times would be expelled.

Disingenuous enablers of the censoring protesters, like New Republic’s Jeet Heer, immediately tried to use this as a wedge to scream “hypocrites” at free-speech advocates, which immediately backfired since FIRE opposed the Wisconsin bill. Jeet’s subsequent effort to save face, that the cries of anguish at his protesters weren’t as loud as he thought they should be, proved unavailing.

Should student protests be outlawed? Should the mere silencing of speakers result in expulsion? Hardly. But the hecklers, and their veto, denying others the right to speak, and the right to hear those speakers, enjoy no righteousness either.

By shutting down Rep. Cain, the cute kids of Thurgood Marshall Law School invite a reaction, as is happening in Wisconsin, to prevent the loudest and most passionate warrior from deciding who gets to speak and who doesn’t. And presented with such a nail, legislators like Cain have only one hammer, and they know how to use it. The kids acted poorly. This is why poor reactions happen. Even social justice doesn’t trump Newton’s third law.

As for the unduly passionate students of Thurgood Marshall Law School, Lane would have done them a favor by handing out dimes. They are not going to like being lawyers at all, and they are going to really suck at it. But then, that would mean TSU doesn’t get their tuition, and that would be far more devastating to a college president than silencing an invited state representative.

Update: Josh Blackman has the putative explanation for Lane’s claim that it was an unapproved event. You will be shocked to learn it’s, well, read Josh’s twits.

16 thoughts on “Thurgood Marshall Law School Tests Newton’s Third Law (Update)

  1. ETB

    Not many of them will become lawyers. TSU Law consistently has the lowest bar passage rate of the Texas law schools.

  2. David Pittelli

    Having a 5-minute noisy protest should not result in suspension. But if you then refuse a command to leave, and the event has to be cancelled, or you have to be dragged out by force, then yes, you should be suspended or expelled for disrupting a class or a speech.

    1. SHG Post author

      Because . . . why? If protesters engage in violence, then they can be arrested/expelled for the conduct of engaging in violence. But engaging in protest, even if protest that creates an untenable conflict with the 1st A rights of others, is still an exercise of free speech. A wrongful exercise, in the scheme of free speech, but free speech nonetheless. There is no First Amendment rule that says speech that silences another’s speech can be penalized. Feeling that it’s wrong and should be penalized is just that, your feelings. What exception to the First Amendment permits a law or policy to prohibit such protests?

      1. wilbur

        Time, place and manner restrictions, if content-neutral. The First Amendment is not a recipe for anarchy.

        Otherwise, as some guy once wrote it leaves “the loudest and most passionate warrior to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.” And might of voice and passion isn’t always right, unless we agree throwing hands is how we’re going to settle things now.

        Nneka Akubeze can sponsor speakers to his/her liking and have public meetings, debates, discussions … whatever. More speech for everyone. But that doesn’t include speech aimed at silencing the speech of others

        1. SHG Post author

          An interesting approach, but not sure it works as a time, place and manner restriction. If it restricts one side, it restricts the other, as it must apply to all speech to be content neutral. The only distinction is content, one for, the other against.

          So if there is approval for a function at 12 noon in Smith Hall, are the protesters not as much a part of the event, even if unwelcome by the sponsor, as the speaker and audience? What distinguishes a question posed from the audience from a heckler? Content.

          1. Ellen Evans

            The litmus test is whether or not the speech of one side permits the speech of the other. The students in question here are preventing the exercise of free speech with their speech . A student posing a question is engaging in free speech, not refusing to allow the initial speaker to engage in free speech him/herself.

            So, it is not merely content which distinguishes the two, it is the effect upon the exercise of free speech by the presenting speaker. Shouting down such a speaker represents a negation of free speech, while a questioner, no matter how much he or she disagrees, is promoting free speech.

            1. SHG Post author

              That’s certainly correct in the scheme of how free speech should happen, but the question here is whether it can be subject to official legal sanction.

      2. LocoYokel

        Well, if you refuse a proper, legal order to leave then it becomes trespassing, IIRC. At that point it becomes a different issue than simply free speech and protest.

        I know you are probably going to jump all over this because, not being a lawyer, I don’t think about this like a lawyer. But I’m open to being educated.

        1. SHG Post author

          Yeah, I am. “Lawful order” does the heavy lifting. Just because somebody orders something doesn’t make it lawful.

  3. B. McLeod

    Where does this “right to exist” strawman bullshit come from? I am unaware of anybody calling for gays or trannies to be hauled off to extermination camps. So far as anything I have heard, their “right to exist” is not in dispute. Rather, the debate seems to relate to their insistence on a right to be applauded or to dictate the speech of others.

  4. freedomfan

    Do these students even care that they end up looking like whiny and (gasp!) privileged little snots? Thinking that their delicate sensibilities entitle them to demand that everyone else must shut up is a very privileged attitude. In olden days, weren’t there prohibitions against offending royalty? Not so different from how the protesters want to be treated.

    Further, do they understand that, outside the noisy echo chamber of the like-minded, the natural reaction of many observers will be to wonder whether they even have a cogent response to the speaker? Why else shout him down? If they are really opposed to him because he is going to say something foolish, then why not let him say it and then point out what a fool he is? Or, perhaps the speaker has some great thought the protesters are afraid people will here? Judging by zillion internet ads whispering, “Click here to see the one simple secret *they* don’t want you to know?”, it seems like there is at least some desire to find out what one is prevented from hearing.

    1. B. McLeod

      This is their “ticket” with that fraction of the country whose lock-step ranks they seek to join.

      1. SHG Post author

        Join? They are them. Their peers adore them. Their profs and admins adore them, or at least are too afraid of them to do anything, and we don’t exist in their world.

  5. Pingback: Campus free speech roundup - Overlawyered

Comments are closed.