Contact: Gina Lauterio
Lawmakers Push Back to Restore Free Speech and Due Process on Campus
WASHINGTON / February 16, 2016 – In the face of continuing pressures by campus activists, lawmakers across the country are taking steps to restore constitutionally based rights to free speech and due process. SAVE applauds these efforts to bring democratic ideals back to college campuses.
Regarding free speech, Arizona State Rep. Anthony Kern introduced a bill last week that would prohibit colleges from designating any area of campus as a free speech zone (1). In Missouri, Rep. Dean Dohrman introduced a bill last month that would require students to take a class on free speech in order to graduate (2).
Last summer the U.S. House of Representatives convened a hearing on First Amendment Protections on Public College and University Campuses (3). In January the National Association of Scholars issued a wide-ranging statement on intellectual freedom and free speech (4).
Lawmakers have expressed concerns about the lack of due process in sexual assault cases, as well.
On January 26, Georgia Rep. Earl Ehrhart, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on Higher Education, held a hearing that probed the lack of due process on campuses. Ehrhart warned he wouldn’t talk to college presidents about budget requests until they adopt “simple, basic due process protections.” (5)
Lack of legal representation is another due process shortcoming, and right-to-counsel laws for students accused of sexual assault have now been enacted in North Carolina, Arkansas, and North Dakota (6).
Nationally, two senators have voiced concerns about deficiencies in due process protections.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has highlighted the problem of false allegations: “One need only review recent news reports to know that false allegations do, in fact, happen. Certainly, we should make additional efforts to protect due process on campus.” (7)
Referring to the proposed Campus Accountability and Safety Act, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) commented, “I do believe you do need, for the accused, you need to maintain due process rights.… I think this part of the legislation will probably require some additional review.”
Last Tuesday Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at Rutgers University-New Brunswick about the need for free speech on campus. In response, protesters threw blood-colored paint on themselves, vandalized the building where Yiannopoulos spoke, and repeatedly interrupted his speech (8).
SAVE is working for evidence-based, constitutionally sound solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org