Friday, September 28, 2018

Debate over campus free speech back before House

Republican lawmakers are continuing to spotlight policies on college campuses they say restrict free speech. During a hearing today, members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hear from free speech advocates, some of whom will call on Congress to step in, and at least one who will chide conservatives for partisan rhetoric and ask lawmakers to stay out of it.

— Joseph Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, will rail against so-called speech codes, or policies that in some way restrict protected speech. He will argue that protected speech includes “overbroad” anti-harassment policies and “free speech” zones, which limit rallies, demonstrations and speeches to small or out-of-the-way parts of campus and often require permits from college officials, according to his written testimony.

— Cohn will ask House lawmakers to support a proposal from Sen. Orrin Hatch. The bill, introduced in February, is called the Free Right to Expression in Education Act, S. 2394 (115), and would ban the use of free speech zones. “There is no silver bullet that will resolve every threat to free speech on campus,” Cohn plans to tell lawmakers. “Congress can, however, take steps that will dramatically reduce such cases.”

— Also slated to testify against free speech zones is Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University and president of the First Amendment Center at the Newseum. But, unlike Cohn, Paulson says the solution is educating the public about the value of free speech, not legislation.

— “There are some who see free speech infractions and ask for Congress to do something. But with all due respect, this is not about legislation,” Paulson writes in prepared remarks. “You can’t try to zone protests off your campus if you appreciate the value of petition and assembly.”

— The issue hasn’t yielded much in the way of policy from Capitol Hill, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed last week to continue fighting campus policies that limit speech. “We must put an end to this nonsense. It is time to put a stake in its heart," he said. The issue is also on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ radar. "Too many administrators have been complicit in creating or facilitating a culture that makes it easier for the 'heckler' to win,” DeVos said last week.

— But Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America — a nonprofit that works to protect free expression worldwide — will challenge the Justice Department’s approach to campus free speech, telling lawmakers the issue must not become “politicized or partisan.”

— Nossel wrote in prepared remarks that while the Justice Department has raised important concerns, “accompanying these interventions with rhetoric castigating progressive students as snowflakes, vilifying campus administrators, and wrongly suggesting that attacks on free speech target only the right, the genuine constitutional concerns that ought to be at the heart of these efforts become clouded over by ideology and divisive rhetoric.”



Bird of Paradise said...

Time to end the speech codes and free speech zones make the whole campus Free Speech Zone and of the selfish self centered little snowflakes don't like it they cam just go and climb into their little playpen

Bill R. said...

Freedom of Speech is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. There should not even be a debate about this. It's very simple, your free speech ends where it infringes on my free speech and not one moment before.