U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday about her newly introduced resolution to encourage free speech and inclusive debate on college campuses.
Video of her remarks on the Campus Free Speech Resolution of 2019 is available here.
College campus protests in the 1960s framed Americans’ ideas for what modern protests look like, Blackburn told the Senate.
“Once-sleepy college campuses became the scenes of widespread unrest,” she said.
Blackburn referenced the Supreme Court ruling in Healy v. James that found that Central Connecticut State University had deprived students of their First Amendment rights when the university prevented the formation of a local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.
Free speech of conservative views is being stifled at universities today, she said.
Blackburn, in a press release, said, “On the eve of National Higher Education day, I am introducing the Campus Free Speech Resolution of 2019. It’s a first step in restoring sanity to free speech for American college students. It recognizes that universities should protect the free and open exchange of ideas and that freedom of speech is worth protecting in a world increasingly hostile to democracy.”
The Campus Free Speech Resolution of 2019 is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Scott (R-SC).
Conservative experts in education and free speech applauded the resolution.
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, said, “Learning is nothing if not a pursuit of truth. As students pursue their education, they should never face limits on what, when, where, or how they learn. They should be empowered to pursue truth through the free exchange of all ideas, especially ideas with which they may not agree. Free inquiry is an essential feature of our democracy, and this administration will continue to vigilantly protect the First Amendment.”
Nicki Neily, President of Speech First, said, “We applaud the Senate’s resolution. College campuses are the place where ideas should be vigorously debated, but sadly, the window of acceptable political discourse on campus is so narrow that students who express views outside that orthodoxy can be punished and dragged through burdensome administrative proceedings. Across the country, far too many public universities have failed to uphold their obligations under the First Amendment. The Senate’s resolution is a timely reminder of those obligations and the fundamental values they protect.”
Joe Cohn, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Legislative and Policy Director, said, ”Misleadingly titled free speech zones don’t promote free speech, rather they quarantine student expression to designated areas that are often tiny and far out of sight. FIRE is thankful to Senator Blackburn for using this resolution to apply additional pressure on institutions to open all common outdoor areas for student speech.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN-01) introduced a companion resolution in the House of Representatives in March.
The resolution comes on the heels of a Knight Foundation survey which shows that 51 percent of the college students surveyed say they believe that violating another’s First Amendment protections because they disagree is acceptable to some degree.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Photo “Marsha Blackburn” by Marsha Blackburn.