As families across the nation are celebrating the United States’ independence, some are bracing themselves for the contentious topic of politics to be brought up at the weekend cookout. While these conversations may be distressing for some and enjoyable for others, we can all be thankful that our founding fathers established a nation where we can speak freely and disagree with others. However, freedom of speech is not always a given, especially on college campuses.
Ironically, the very institutions that claim to promote the free and open exchange of ideas are doing exactly the opposite. Students have been subjected to sharing their ideas by-appointment-only in small “free speech zones”. Conservative speakers have been disinvited and banned from campuses. Even the simple gesture of handing out Bibles to students has come under scrutiny.
Recently, Republican Senators have introduced a resolution to protect freedom of speech (S. Res. 233). It touches on the unconstitutionality of “free speech zones” and the duty of institutions to protect the free and open exchange of ideas. It encourages the Secretary of Education and Attorney General to take action. While this is a step in the right direction, the resolution has no enforcement mechanism for institutions that suppress free speech, keeping the status quo.
Colleges and universities have intentionally ignored language that protects student speech in the Higher Education Act. Any similar language, like in S. Res. 233, will continue to be ignored unless Congress outlines consequences. Eagle Forum recently signed onto a coalition letter urging Congress to place free speech protections in the Higher Education Act (HEA) with language that strips the funding from colleges and universities that do not comply. College administrators would be terrified to lose their main source of power.
Shortly after the letter was released, President Trump announced his executive order on free speech with a threat of stripping colleges of their research grants. It only makes sense for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to have similar provisions.
Eagle Forum encourages Congress to continue these conversations and work diligently to hold college institutions responsible for promoting free speech.