TSU FedSoc Event Shut Down Amid Protests

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By Patrick L. Gregory

A Federalist Society program canceled in the midst of protests at the event at a historically black university has led to a call for action by a Texas legislator.

The Oct. 9 event, hosted by Texas Southern University law school’s chapter of the Federalist Society—a conservative legal organization—was to feature state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R).

Cain, a freshman and member of the Texas Freedom Caucus—tied as one of the most conservative Texas representatives in a 2017 Rice University study.

Protesters interrupted the speech according to news reports and a video posted by KHOU-11, a CBS affiliate in Houston. They reportedly criticized Cain as an opponent of LGBT rights and an ally of the alt-right.

Cain “stands for hatred and bigotry on a scale that isn’t deserving of having a place or platform here at TSU,” student and protester Justin Tolston said in the KHOU-TV video. Tolston and other protesters didn’t return requests for comment.

University President Austin Lane shut down the event after police notified him of the disturbance because “it was determined that The Federalist Society was not a sanctioned University organization and proper scheduling procedures were not followed,” TSU said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg BNA.

That reasoning didn’t satisfy Cain, who said Lane had police escort him off campus. “In the coming weeks, I’ll be asking Speaker [Joe] Straus and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick to consider interim studies on the anti-free [speech] actions of TSU and any other public universities,” Cain said on his verified Facebook page.

Campus Speech in Spotlight

The incident comes after Seattle University law school revoked its co-sponsorship of an immigration discussion hosted by its Federalist Society chapter, and the Department of Justice’s decided to take a hands-on role in protecting campus free speech.

College campuses across the country have been roiling with protests in recent months.

Several events have been canceled or disrupted based on the views of the speakers hosted, including conservatives such as Ann Coulter. Law school campus programming has largely been immune.

Free speech is “under assault on college campuses” and “is essential in any education, but it is most egregious to see such blatant violations take place in an institution that should be teaching students the legal speech protections protected by the first amendment,” Cain told Bloomberg BNA by email Oct. 10.

A request for comment from the law school wasn’t returned.

Law School Approved Event?

The president of the Federalist Society chapter, Daniel Caldwell, says he received approval from a law school dean and followed all procedures required by the Student Bar Association to form the chapter and hold the event.

The group appears on a purported Sept. 16 list of organizations registered at the law school, which was sent by Caldwell to Bloomberg BNA.

Free Speech Welcome

TSU “welcomes free speech and all viewpoints on campus as part of our collegiate experience,” the school’s statement said.

“The University has extended an invitation to” Cain “to return to campus for deliberative dialogue at a University-approved event,” it said.

The school is “working with the student group to assist with registration process and procedures,” it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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