Politicians need to leave college students alone

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Photo Credit: Jacky Tovar | Daily Texan Staff

UT made national news last fall when Young Conservatives of Texas threw their now-infamous bake sale — changing the prices of baked goods depending on the color of a student’s skin — as a means of protesting UT’s affirmative action policies. YCT’s actions were rightly condemned by students from all corners of campus. A debate ensued over the prospect of formal action against the organization. While some students argued for punitive action, the Student Government Assembly ended up voting not to disband YCT by a wide margin, correctly citing their right to organize on campus. 

Conservative politicians and pundits frequently show concern that liberals are stifling the free speech rights of conservative students. But our experience here on campus shows that their consternation is unwarranted. Most of the time, it feels like politicians are using college students as a convenient and
cheap scapegoat. 

When Texas A&M disqualified the leading candidate in its presidential election for violating campaign finance rules this past spring, energy secretary Rick Perry decided to weigh in with an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle calling the results of the election into question. 

Just this past week, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, “Most professors are already afraid to discuss hard ideas. Many just regurgitate liberal dogma. They fear conservative ideas & free speech.” Never mind that the governor should have more important things to focus on, it’s disheartening that he feels the need to placate his base by disingenuously attacking
college campuses.

As a nation, we’re spending too much time talking about the political opinions of a group of kids who get their stomach pumped on Friday night and still make it to their 8 a.m. on Monday morning. Look, college students are stupid. We are young. We are emotional. We are reactionary. Sometimes we’re going to make bad decisions. 

Science suggests that the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25, about three years after the average student graduates. That’s why we have an oversight structure in place. For the most part, student leadership has to run all of its decisions by the University before acting. This stops the vast majority of our bad ideas from coming to fruition. And as far as student protests go, they’re as protected under the First Amendment as the speech they’re protesting.

Why do pundits spend so much time talking about college students in the first place?  Because it’s much easier than taking on serious issues, and lowest-common-denominator reporting leads to viewers who prefer cheap attacks on their political opponents. This is hurting the quality of our national
political discourse. 

This isn’t to say there aren’t legal and ethical questions that deserve to be asked about freedom of speech and the ability of student organizations to hold controversial events on campus, but let students debate these issues for ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a CNN or Fox News pundit who has never stepped foot on the 40 Acres to tell me how my campus should be run.

Price is a government sophomore from Austin.