As a student senator, I voted, with much conviction, against funding “What’s Right With America? A Lecture by Reverend Rafael Cruz,” an event hosted by an SMU student-led organization which was approved by a small margin of votes. I did not support the speaker, Reverend Rafael Cruz, whose dogmatic character goes against the principles of inclusion which I advocate for here at SMU. Universities provide platforms for an all-embracing scholarly discourse benefiting students and the surrounding communities. However, giving such a pulpit to an individual who has a record of intolerance for the views of others is counterproductive and causes us to regress as a school that aims for social inclusion.
Some have argued that prohibiting such a speaker would be speech infringement. Several issues refute this claim, and most of all, the Student Senate is clearly not bound by principles of free speech to fund every event request it receives. This event came at a time when there was tension due to racist comments being posted on social media platforms that spoke negatively of black students at SMU. Another issue with the event was the inaccurate biographical information on the Facebook event description, which depicted Cruz as a refugee who ran away from communism when the reality is that he left Cuba in 1957 during Batista’s dictatorship. That information was immediately corrected after a fellow senator and SMU Law student pointed out the discrepancies. Rafael Cruz also once said that gay rights advocates would push to legalize pedophilia after legalizing gay marriage. This statement expresses blatant bigotry and an opinion without substance. Polarizing words only create more division and damage the reputation of those working to foster an all-embracing dialogue instead of indignant conversations and small mindedness. The Student Senate giving student activities money to events like this one is contradictory to the SMU values statement which promotes ”…sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty and staff.” Furthermore, SMU is one of only seven universities nationwide to provide a human rights education that advocates for everyone’s rights and dignity presented in its motto: “There is no such thing as a lesser person.” As an SMU community we should be working to promote diversity, inclusion, and acceptance for the views of others, and most importantly continue to strive for the betterment of our world.
José Manuel Santoyo is a refugee, a Human Rights student at SMU, and a community leader who was recently nominated for the Dallas Morning News “Texan of the Year.”