Officials at a historically black university (Texas Southern University) in Texas canceled a planned speech by Republican Sen. John Cornyn in the face of “stark opposition” from students to the talk. The decision comes amid outcry on the Houston campus over the Republican senator’s support for the Trump administration.
“Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come. We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date in order to keep the focus on graduates and their families,” said the university’s Facebook page.
The university’s statement didn’t specifically give a reason for the cancellation. But Cornyn’s planned appearance had been generating pushback. A petition on Change.org had generated 846 signatures. The petition said, “Having a politician such as him speak at our institution is an insult to the students, to TSU, and to all [historically black colleges and universities].” The action was sponsored by Rebecca Trevino, 26, a 2017 graduate in social work from San Antonio .She had no desire to censor Cornyn but rather to represent the values of the school.
“What I want people to realize is that this is our commencement,” Trevino said. “This is something we’ve worked hard for and we want someone who represents us and our values.”
The university, which will graduate more than 1,100 students , said every effort had been made to ensure its ceremony was a celebration that would be remembered for the right reasons. Cornyn has been invited to meet with Texas Southern University students in the future, the school said in a statement.
Texas Southern’s decision is the latest case of a conservative speaker drawing protest at a university, drawing questions about role free speech and political dialogue on campuses. On Thursday, DeVos was booed at a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. An a pair of planned speeches by conservative provocateurs have been cancelled at the University of California, Berkeley in recent months.