Lessons in leadership

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst recently took it upon himself to criticize a play being produced by a student at Tarleton State University. As part of a class, a student chose to stage “Corpus Christi,” a controversial play that portrays Christ and his disciples as gay.  Dewhurst’s press release read (in part):

Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech, but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.

As Ralph K.M. Haurwit wrote on his “The Lowdown on Higher ed” blog, Dewhurt’s reading of free speech is not widely accepted.  Some might say that the idea that the state only allowing students to pursue government-approved topics at universities is probably morally reprehensible (to borrow a phrase). After all, only allowing speeches and productions approved by the government gets you North Korea and their elaborate productions in honor of “beloved leader.” Allowing dissent can be a pain. However, it’s much better than the alternative.

Happy Birthday, Beloved leader

State approved entertainment: Happy Birthday, Beloved leader!

Dewhurst’s tactical mistake is more fundamental. What Dewhurst managed to do is upgrade this production from a show seen by a handful of students into state-wide bit political theatre. Giving free publicity to this production elevated this student to the status of free speech hero and lowered a state official to the role of censor.

Now all of the productions scheduled for today have now been cancelled. Apparently, the demands of political correctness are so strong that all of the class’s assigned plays had to be shut down because one was deemed offensive. The university’s initial promise to protect free speech was lost in the flood of threatening emails. Now this has become an ongoing issue.

Sometimes the best response is no response. There was only one way to help this student spread their offensive message statewide–and Dewhurst found it.

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Update: The Rose Marine Theatre has retracted their offer to host the students plays after a threat of violence.

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