Congressman Phil Roe (R., Tenn.) has introduced HR 307, a resolution with bipartisan backing expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that restrictive campus speech codes and so-called free speech zones are “inherently at odds with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.” The bill of particulars listed in the resolution’s whereas clauses makes for interesting reading. This is a very nice beginning for congressional action on campus free speech, a signal to American colleges and universities that Congress is engaged on this issue.
If a “Sense of Congress” resolution on free speech zones was the only action we were to see on campus free speech, I would be concerned. In a recent op-ed, however, Roe makes it clear that he views his resolution as only a “first step.” Roe’s op-ed also indicates that he sees speaker shout-downs as very much a part of the problem. That, and the fact that Roe is a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee which will supervise the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act, bodes well.
In a proposal seconded by prominent signatories, many well-known to Corner readers, the National Association of Scholars has called for amending the Higher Education Act to protect campus freedom of speech, including discipline for speaker shout-downs. I have followed up on that by elaborating the NAS’s suggestions into a more detailed proposal. Given his resolution on campus free speech and his thoughtful opinion piece, I’m encouraged to know that Congressman Roe will have an important say in the coming re-authorization of the Higher Education Act.