Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Tuesday 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.
Senator 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.
He said, “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.
Senator 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 Senator Alexander and District Attorney General Rosenstein’s remarks are available here.
Senator Alexander is a former U.S. Education Secretary and former president of the University of Tennessee.