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Ted Cruz’s forthcoming visit to Yale has underscored a divide on campus between an organization stressing a need for political diversity and those critical of the conservative Texas senator’s often controversial career.

Cruz will record an episode of Verdict, the political podcast he hosts with Michael Knowles ’12, at the Omni Hotel on April 11. The sold-out event will be hosted by the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program in partnership with the Young America’s Foundation’s Irving Brown Lecture Series. In the days following the event’s announcement, students have called into question the Program’s decision to welcome the iconoclast conservative to campus.  

“That some perspectives diverging from those held commonly may have value, does not mean that perspectives have value because they diverge from the majority,” Texan student Naomi D’Arbell Bobadilla ’22 told the News. “This is especially worth remembering when the majority in question is the majority of people who did not enable a right-wing insurrection, which Ted Cruz did.” 

Cruz will be the latest in the Program’s string of controversial invites. A loyal ally of former President Donald Trump, Cruz questioned the legitimacy of then-President-elect Joseph Biden’s election on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before more than 2,000 rioters laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. This January, he described the Capitol insurrection as a “terrorist attack,” a statement which he publicly revoked less than 24 hours later, calling his own words “frankly dumb.”

The senator has long championed traditionally conservative causes, including restricting immigration, limiting abortion access and protecting gun-ownership rights. But Cruz most recently made national headlines for his role in the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, during which he appeared to dismiss the ability of transgender people to experience gender discrimination and questioned Judge Brown Jackson’s beliefs on critical race theory.

The Buckley Program, a student group which organizes primarily political programming, strives to “promote intellectual diversity on Yale’s campus,” according to its mission. It has also traditionally hosted a “disinvitation dinner” for guests who have been protested for their views — previous guests include Henry Kissinger, Peter Thiel and ​​Charles Murray. 

According to Buckley Program President Kevin Xiao ’23, the group was offered the opportunity to host Sen. Cruz several months ago, but it had only recently been able to set a date. Hundreds of students will be in attendance.

“Yale students rarely have the opportunity to hear from speakers like Senator Cruz, and listening to different perspectives in good faith fosters a healthy and lively discourse both on campus and beyond,” Xiao wrote in an email to the News. 

Students will have the opportunity to ask questions, and the Senator has specifically said he welcomes questions from those who disagree with himself and Knowles, according to Xiao.

But for some students, the fact of Sen. Cruz being invited to Yale at all poses a concern. 

“I feel like, in this case, it’s better to not give him the platform, given his actions, and bringing him to campus kind of affirms those actions,” Jamie Nicolas ’25 said. 

Carly Benson ’24, who is from Texas, said she felt confused as to why Cruz would bother coming to campus at all, noting that she had already heard people plan to boycott or protest the event. 

Benson noted, however, that Cruz has “a history of going to the wrong place,” recalling the controversy that ensued last year after Cruz left for vacation in Cancún while Texas was walloped by a blizzard and a power crisis. 

“I think he has to understand that people are not going to be that excited about him coming,” Benson added. “I feel like he’s probably excited for people to hate him because then he can be the victim … he gets to be like, ‘Oh, I went to Yale and look what the radical left did.’” 

Both Nicolas and Zaharaa Altwaij ’25 told the News that they expected student protest surrounding Cruz’s visit to campus next week. 

Xiao, too, noted that the Buckley Program anticipated that some students would protest the event, and that he respected these students’ right to free expression “peacefully and in a manner that does not disrupt the event.” 

Free speech — especially with regard to campus speakers — has risen to the forefront of discussion in recent weeks, after a protest at Yale Law School disrupted a panel that included a staunchly conservative guest speaker.

Students’ disagreement with Cruz or Knowles, Xiao suggested, did not make it any less important for students to hear out new perspectives. 

“In fact, such differences of opinion remind us of why we have free speech, especially at institutions of higher learning where the mission is the cultivation and creation of new knowledge,” Xiao told the News. “Students should be able to hear different voices, engage with them in good faith, and decide for ourselves whether we agree or disagree. Only through open and honest discussion can we grow and better understand our own values and beliefs.”

But Altwaij expressed concerns that offering Cruz a platform like this one could legitimize “polarized” and, “to some groups, problematic” ideas. 

In particular, she pointed to Cruz’s questioning of the legitimacy of the 2020 election results and his questioning of Judge Brown Jackson during the Senate Confirmation hearing, suggesting that he might not be an appropriate person to address students.

“Although I do believe there is value in having a voice that diverges from many student perspectives, I do not believe that Ted Cruz should be that voice,” Altwaij said. “I believe that there are other individuals with divergent political beliefs who may be better suited for speaking to Yale students, since their beliefs do not implicate racial harms or possible anarchy.”

The Buckley Program was founded in 2010. 

Correction, April 6: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cruz had not responded to a request for comment. The sentence has been deleted.

LUCY HODGMAN
Lucy Hodgman covers Student Life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper majoring in English.