It wasn’t a good showing for Senate Republicans last week. A congressional hearing that addressed free speech on college campuses failed young conservatives, as only three Republican senators attended to make remarks on the issue.
Eight GOP members on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee did not show up and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, didn’t stay long enough to hear the opening statements.
The free speech debate on college campuses has disproportionately affected young conservatives. A 2016 study found that liberal university professors outnumber conservatives by a ratio of almost 12-to-1. Across the nation, left-leaning professors and college administrators have discouraged political diversity on campuses.
Republicans have spoken out against the political inequality in higher education, but when it came time to address the issue in Congress, the majority of GOP committee members didn’t show up. In Thursday’s hearing, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by almost 2-to-1. Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., were the three GOP members present. Red Alert Politics contacted the senator’s offices who did not attend for comment. Most of the senator’s offices cited scheduling conflicts.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education evaluates both public and private colleges across the country and rates their free speech policies. According to FIRE’s findings, the states from which every senator who did not attend the hearing had a college with a yellow or red scoring. Red and yellow scorings classify the school as implementing and facilitating policies that restrict free speech.
FIRE ranked every school it evaluated in South Carolina as red, yet the Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., did not attend or respond for comment.
The Democrats who attended the hearing argued that the spike in violence on college campuses is due to President Trump, even though the suppression of conservative speeches started gaining national attention in 2013.
“When you look at who we have in the White House right now, some of the rhetoric he has used and continues to use, some of the people he has hired, and some of the groups he has encouraged, it should not come as a surprise when we see an apparent resurgence of hate, bigotry, xenophobia, and misogyny on our campuses,” Co-Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said.
Even members invited by the panel took opportunities to assert that the president is to blame.
“They (white supremacist) celebrated his victory, they feel rightly or wrongly that they have the ear of the president or especially when they had Mr. Bannon there,” president of the Southern Poverty Law Center Richard Cohen said.
Cohen went further saying he hopes the president changes his rhetoric and alleged that Trump has energized violence on campuses.
“That’s why we’re seeing a targeting of college campuses by an energized white supremacist movement,” Cohen said.
The senator’s discussion, much like the nation’s campuses, seemed to turn a blind eye on the suppression of college Republicans. Instead, Democrats focused on the August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that killed counterprotestor Heather Heyer.
In addition to Cohen, other experts invited to testify was president of the University of Chicago, a school that FIRE scored green for its exceptional protection of free speech, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen, and Allison Stanger, the Middlebury College professor that was injured in a violent protest against a conservative speaker. The room was packed with millennials who attended the hearing, even though the panel did not reflect the generation affected most by this issue or have any testimonies from speakers who had been violently protested or shouted down on college campuses.
Watch the full testimony:
Charyssa Parent (@Charyssa_Parent) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a reporter with Red Alert Politics (a sister publication to the Washington Examiner).
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