Nick Cabrera, president of the University of Virginia Chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom and member of the Jefferson Council Board of Advisors, participated in the second Congressional Free Speech Roundtable yesterday. The event was organized by Congressman Greg Murphy (R-N.C.).
In his remarks, which begin at the 1:11:00 mark in the video above, Cabrera discussed the free speech environment at UVa. We post his more extensive written commentary below.
MR. NICKOLAUS G. CABRERA
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA ‘23
Good morning, thank you Congressman Murphy and everyone for inviting me to this year’s 2nd annual roundtable. I am Nickolaus Cabrera, current third-year student at the University of Virginia. There I serve on the advisory board of The Jefferson Council and President of the Young Americans for Freedom. I also serve on the National Board of Governors for Young Americans for Freedom.
I chose to attend the University of Virginia because it was and is Mr. Jefferson’s. Now, Thomas Jefferson is frowned upon and seen as evil by many. His founding principles of a university that simply sought to advance human knowledge, educate leaders and cultivate an informed citizenry seem to vanish as we speak.
In a Student Council meeting in which I acted as an elected representative, a piece of legislation that concerned a joke made by a professor was debated. In that discussion, one representative said, “guess what’s not protected under the Constitution… hate speech, so let’s start there.” Another said “hate speech is not protected, I repeat, hate speech is not protected.”
Further, you’ll find the same individuals saying that they won’t participate in conversations about racism with non-black individuals. This specific video can be found on Young America’s Foundation YouTube channel and website, along with countless others.
The days following this meeting were filled with hostility and harassment, ending up with the filing of a police report due to a verbal threat against me by a fellow student.
Does this stem from miseducation? Are these students being falsely educated on the first amendment by their professors?
Instead of working to answer these questions, it seems as if some universities have taken the easier way out. Progressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives with our tax dollars to fulfill these students ideologies. Another important First Amendment principle is that the government must not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. Nevertheless, the University of
Virginia paid $30,000 to bring critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi (on Zoom, so none of this went to travel costs). But when student groups like YAF asked the Division for Diversity Equity and Inclusion for similar funding for Kellyanne Conway to come to campus, we were offered $300. A fraction of the amount that Kendi had received.
It is important for colleges and universities to invite speakers of all backgrounds and ideologies to their campus. However, numerous schools across the nation have had the same trouble that YAF at the University of Virginia has. Bringing Kendi is important. Let students hear from a critical race theorist. I actually welcome that because I came to college to engage with ideas that I disagree with. But if you are going to make it easy for students to hear from a critical race theorist, you ought to make it equally as easy to hear from one of the most accomplished women in politics, Kellyanne Conway.
In February of 2021, I ventured to Orlando for CPAC. Of course, I wanted to get some pictures without my mask on with many people there who I was excited to meet. I posted a picture to my twitter account, and in a matter of days, I got a notification that I was being put on a trial by the University Judiciary Committee.
I could not take a picture without a mask but students posting on snapchat at house parties without masks are condoned? Where is the logic?
The case was ultimately dismissed thanks to a local Charlottesville Lawyer and TJC Advisory Board member. The case was blatantly unconstitutional and no one faced consequences for it.
Conservative voices have been silenced. We follow rules that no one else has to follow, and we are still silenced. When Conservative student groups hang up posters in approved areas, they are immediately torn down and defaced. And when conservatives table and promote their events, they are harassed instead of having encouraging discussion.
I want to share with you one more story that I find truly frightening. YAF at UVA invited Vice President Mike Pence to speak at the University. And this is what the Editorial Board of the Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper, put out: “Dangerous Rhetoric is not Entitled to a Platform.” That’s the headline. This isn’t just one rogue student, this was the whole Editorial Board.
Being a conservative college student is not easy. I had seriously considered transferring after that student council meeting. I thought to myself what was I getting myself into? But, I am glad I stayed. We have fought the good fight and progressed a equal playing field with the initiative and speaker programs through YAF and with the contributions of motivated alumni in The Jefferson Council. I remain hopeful that our nation can bounce back from this.
I’ll close with words that Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
This constitutional command will not enforce itself. If conservatives don’t stand up for free speech on college campuses, no one will, and our universities, our government institutions, and our nation will be forever worse because of it.
Thank you all again, and I look forward to discussion.