Higher ed committee looks at campus free speech issues

Higher ed committee looks at campus free speech issues

AUSTIN — The Senate Higher Education Committee discussed the issue of campus censorship in the wake of a number of high profile incidents in other states. The discussion centered around a bill offered by Lakeway Sen. Dawn Buckingham, who is trying to reinforce state and federal constitutional protections for freedom of speech on college campuses. On some college campuses in other states, protests against controversial invited speakers have led to demonstrations, cancellations of events and even riots in one case. Buckingham doesn’t want that to happen here. “Our institutions of higher education have always been a place of learning and growing and the open dialog of ideas, even those we disagree with,” she said.

Buckingham’s bill, SB 1151, would require colleges and universities to develop public policies relating to freedom of expression on campus, and make explicit the right of free expression. Under the bill, students could not be punished solely for exercising their right to free speech. Members agreed with the sentiment of the bill, supporting free speech and the need for the college experience to challenge and broaden opinions and world views, but questioned if additional legislation was necessary. “If what you’re doing is trying to get the universities’ attention to free speech, I don’t think we need to codify that,” said Dallas Sen. Royce West. “I think we have adequate case law that deals with First Amendment rights.”

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