The 2018 Republican Party of Texas Platform is the most comprehensively conservative document to come out of the state party in recorded memory, but some of its most important new planks are protections for a group far removed from traditional Republicans—college students.
Thanks largely to the tireless efforts of William Lutz, Texas Senate District 14’s representative on the Platform Committee, the party platform now contains language urging the protection of students’ free speech rights as well as recommending tuition reductions.
Plank 116, “Campus Speech” reads as follows:
We urge the Texas Legislature to recognize the rights of those on college campuses to practice their faith and their right to free speech. We further urge that the Texas Legislature write legislation to protect the right of anyone who steps onto college campuses, to prohibit college campuses from stripping away their First Amendment rights of free speech and practicing their religion. We support withdrawal of public funding from any college or university within this state that actively or passively discriminates or permits discrimination against the free speech of either students or guest speakers. Student groups shall have the unfettered right to elect their leaders, choose their members, and set their organization’s mission, purpose, and standard of conduct.
Plank 302, “Freedom of Speech on University Campuses” also adds to students’ speech protections and reads as follows:
We support the protection of free-speech rights at public universities, including the elimination of politically correct speech codes and “bias-response teams.
Plank 116 arrives on the heels of multiple instances of stifled free speech on college campuses across Texas. For instance, State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park) was heckled off of Texas Southern University’s campus while speaking at a Federalist Society meeting; in another case, Young Conservatives of Texas at UT were charged exorbitant security fees after they brought former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum to campus in 2017.
Plank 302 adds to the already comprehensive language of plank 116 by recommending the abolition of speech codes and bias-response teams at Texas public universities. These bias response teams are often used to censure conservative students for expressing basic realities such as the existence of biological sex and the racial discrimination inherent in affirmative action.
Campus free speech is more than a political issue for conservatives, it is an existential matter. College campuses have slowly attempted to prohibit entirely the core principles of conservativism such as economic liberty, strong borders, and family values. A smart and principled Republican Party would seek to protect the rights of college conservatives who work to keep the party’s beliefs alive.
Lutz’s efforts also resulted in platform plank 127, which urges the legislature to limit tuition increases.
Plank 127, “College Tuition” reads:
We call upon the Texas Legislature to take reasonable measures to curtail tuition increases. The Legislature should pass a law clearing the way for all Texas public universities to adopt at least one applied major through the “Affordable Baccalaureate Program.”
College affordability is essential to ensuring Texas continues to develop a competitive workforce, and this new platform plank will assist toward that end.
Lutz, in an exclusive interview with Texas Scorecard, reflected on the uphill effort passing these new planks involved.
I’ve tried to get this language into the platform for 3 cycles, both at the state and district level, and the one thing the committees always insisted on was a clear and concise statement of policy. Also, this has always been a niche issue, but with all the high-profile instances of free speech violations lately the public has finally woken up and our platform reflects that.
He also expressed excitement at the victory, saying, “It is great to see the Republican Party of Texas take a strong stance on Texas college students’ fundamental rights, this is a huge victory for not only the party but the young conservative movement.”
James Dickey, the newly re-elected Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, has repeatedly said the platform of the RPT should be used as a template for Republicans in the legislature, both state and federal.
Taxpayers should demand their elected Republican lawmakers look first toward enacting those grassroots’ priorities embedded in the Texas GOP platform when they return to Austin this coming January.