09.18.18

Alexander to College Leaders: Veto the Heckler’s Veto

Says students who disrupt speaker’s right to speak and audience’s right to listen should be punished

“What the federal government should not do is pass a law trying to solve all this. Conservatives do not  like it when judges try to write laws and conservatives should not like it when legislators and agencies try to rewrite the constitution.” —Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2018 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said college leaders should “veto the heckler’s veto” and punish students who interfere with the right of speakers to speak and audiences to listen.    

Alexander made his comments at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Forum on Free Speech in Higher Education, speaking with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Excerpts from his remarks are below:

“Colleges should use the same sort of creativity and enthusiasm for making other points of view, [including] conservative points of view, represented on campus that they [do] in [bringing] underrepresented students on campus. That would go a long way to solve the problem.”

“What the federal government should not do is pass a law trying to solve all this. Conservatives do not like it when judges try to write laws, and conservatives should not like it when legislators and agencies try to rewrite the Constitution. And I do not want to see Congress or the president or the department of anything defining what a speech code should be or should not be, what you can say, or what you shouldn't. I think what should define that is the First Amendment…” 

Alexander encouraged college presidents to use tactics such as, “Adopting the Chicago principles, vetoing the heckler's veto, making your campus a campus where having people of many different points of view is routine: those are all ways to defuse the possibility of a big explosion over free speech.” 

Video and transcript of Alexander and Rosenstein’s remarks are available here

Alexander is a former U.S. Education Secretary and former president of the University of Tennessee.

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