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On Monday February 5 I invoked a rule seldom used on the floor of the Legislature. I invoked the rule of Personal Privilege. This rule is used when members of the Legislature need to speak to matters pertaining to their integrity as a Legislator. I invoked the rule in order to respond to the University of Nebraska’s releasing of Senators’ e-mails to the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper, which they had requested via the Freedom of Information Act.
I needed to set the record straight on three important matters relating to developments that unfolded last fall at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL). The e-mails which were released pertained to an incident which had occurred on the UNL campus on August 25 between a sophomore student and an English professor and a graduate student lecturer, who berated the student as she recruited for Turning Point USA, a conservative student group.
The first matter I needed to correct related to the false accusation that I had never reached out to the administration at the University before I submitted my first Op/Ed piece to the newspapers. NU President, Hank Bounds, had sent me an e-mail which said: “I don’t relish the thought of a public dispute with members of the Legislature. Unfortunately, no one contacted me to discuss your questions before the piece was sent to the media, even though senators have my cell phone number and e-mail address…”
To the contrary, I had reached out numerous times to NU Chancellor, Ronnie Green, at his office before I wrote the first Op/Ed for the newspapers, but he never bothered to return my phone calls. Finally, after several attempts to reach out to him, I called his office and said to his staff, “I am going to write an Op/Ed for the paper and I’d like to talk to Chancellor Green. I want him to know what I am going to say before I send it out. Please have him call me because I am sending it out at noon.” I sent out the Op/Ed because he never called me back that day. In fact, Chancellor Green never bothered to call me back until after the Op/Ed had been published and NU President, Hank Bounds, promised me that he would call. I finally got his call two weeks after I began calling him. To me, this is unacceptable behavior from the Chancellor of our flagship university.
The second issue I needed to correct related to the very nature of the incident itself. I have never referred to the August 25 incident as a free speech issue; instead, I have always maintained from the very beginning that it was a conduct issue. The University of Nebraska has codes of conduct for their students; they need to develop similar codes of conduct on their faculty. This lack of accountability explains how these professors have been able to berate and belittle students and get away with it.
The third issue I needed to correct related to a false statement made about Sen. Brewer. NU President, Hank Bounds, had stated on KLIN radio that Sen. Brewer had never seen the Op/Ed piece co-authored by Sen. Brewer, Sen Halloran, and me before it went out to the press one month after my first Op/Ed piece. This was fake news. The fact of the matter was that all three senators had worked on this second Op/Ed piece together throughout the week and Sen. Brewer even made some last minute changes before it went out to the press.