SENATE RESOLUTION 233--RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING FREEDOM OF SPEECH, THOUGHT, AND EXPRESSION AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 94
(Senate - June 05, 2019)

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[Pages S3262-S3263]
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SENATE RESOLUTION 233--RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING FREEDOM 
 OF SPEECH, THOUGHT, AND EXPRESSION AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION

  Mrs. BLACKBURN (for herself, Mr. Tillis, Mr. Lankford, Mr. Cornyn, 
Mr. Cotton, Mr. Braun, Mr. Grassley, Ms. Ernst, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Hawley, 
Mr. Scott of South Carolina, and Mr. Cruz) submitted the following 
resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary:

                              S. Res. 233

       Whereas the First Amendment to the Constitution of the 
     United States guarantees that ``Congress shall make no law . 
     . . abridging the freedom of speech'';
       Whereas, in Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972), the 
     Supreme Court of the United States held that the First 
     Amendment to the Constitution of the United States applies in 
     full force on the campuses of public colleges and 
     universities;
       Whereas, in Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981), the 
     Supreme Court of the United States observed that ``the campus 
     of a public university, at least for its students, possesses 
     many of the characteristics of a public forum'';
       Whereas lower Federal courts have also held that the open, 
     outdoor areas of the campuses of public colleges and 
     universities are public forums;
       Whereas section 112(a)(2) of the Higher Education Act of 
     1965 (20 U.S.C. 1011a(a)(2)) contains a sense of Congress 
     noting that ``an institution of higher education should 
     facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas'', ``students 
     should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from 
     speaking out, or discriminated against'', ``students should 
     be treated equally and fairly'', and ``nothing in this 
     paragraph shall be construed to modify, change, or infringe 
     upon any constitutionally protected religious liberty, 
     freedom, expression, or association'';
       Whereas, despite the clarity of the applicable legal 
     precedent and the vital importance of protecting public 
     colleges in the United States as true ``marketplaces of 
     ideas'', the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education 
     has found that approximately 1 in 10 of the top colleges and 
     universities in the United States quarantine student 
     expression to so-called ``free speech zones'', and a survey 
     of 466 schools found that almost 30 percent maintain severely 
     restrictive speech codes that clearly and substantially 
     prohibit constitutionally protected speech;
       Whereas, according to the American Civil Liberties Union 
     (ACLU), ``Speech codes adopted by government-financed state 
     colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in 
     violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all 
     campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because 
     academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free 
     society.'';
       Whereas the University of Chicago, as part of its 
     commitment ``to free and open inquiry in all matters'', 
     issued a statement in which ``it guarantees all members of 
     the University community the broadest possible latitude to 
     speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn'', and more than 
     50 university administrations and faculty bodies have 
     endorsed a version of the ``Chicago Statement'';
       Whereas, in December 2014, the University of Hawaii at Hilo 
     settled a lawsuit for $50,000 after it was sued in Federal 
     court for prohibiting students from protesting the National 
     Security Agency unless those students were standing in the 
     tiny, flood-prone free speech zone at the university;
       Whereas, in July 2015, California State Polytechnic 
     University, Pomona, settled a lawsuit for $35,000 after it 
     was sued in Federal court for prohibiting a student from 
     handing out flyers about animal abuse outside of the free 
     speech zone at the university, comprising less than 0.01 
     percent of campus;
       Whereas, in May 2016, a student-plaintiff settled her 
     lawsuit against Blinn College in Texas for $50,000 after 
     administrators told her she needed ``special permission'' to 
     advocate for Second Amendment rights outside of the tiny free 
     speech zone at the college;
       Whereas, in February 2017, Georgia Gwinnett College agreed 
     to modify its restrictive speech policies after two students 
     sued in Federal court to challenge a requirement that 
     students obtain prior authorization from administrators to 
     engage in expressive activity within the limits of a tiny 
     free speech zone, comprising less than 0.0015 percent of 
     campus;
       Whereas, in March 2017, Middlebury College students and 
     protesters from the community prevented an invited speaker 
     from giving his presentation and then attacked his car and 
     assaulted a professor as the two attempted to leave, 
     resulting in the professor suffering a concussion;
       Whereas, in January 2018, Kellogg Community College in 
     Michigan settled a lawsuit for $55,000 for arresting two 
     students for handing out copies of the Constitution of the 
     United States while talking with their fellow students on a 
     sidewalk;
       Whereas, in June 2018, the University of Michigan agreed to 
     change its restrictive speech code on the same day the United 
     States Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in 
     support of a lawsuit in Federal court challenging the 
     constitutionality of the speech code of the university;
       Whereas, in December 2018, the Los Angeles Community 
     College District, a 9-campus community college district that 
     includes Pierce College, settled a lawsuit for $225,000 and 
     changed its restrictive speech policies after it was sued in 
     Federal court for prohibiting a Pierce College student from 
     distributing Spanish-language copies of the Constitution of 
     the United States on campus unless he stood in the free 
     speech zone, which comprised approximately 0.003 percent of 
     the total area of the 426 acres of the college;
       Whereas, in December 2018, the University of California, 
     Berkeley, home of the 1960s campus free speech movement, 
     settled a lawsuit for $70,000 and changed its restrictive 
     policies after it was sued in Federal court for singling out 
     one student group, apart from other student groups, with the 
     imposition of stricter rules for inviting ``high-profile'' 
     public speakers;
       Whereas the States of Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, 
     Kentucky, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, 
     Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Iowa have passed 
     legislation prohibiting public colleges and universities from 
     quarantining expressive activities on the open outdoor areas 
     of campuses to misleadingly labeled free speech zones; and
       Whereas free speech zones have been used to restrict 
     political speech from all parts of the political spectrum and 
     have thus inhibited the free exchange of ideas at campuses 
     across the country: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved, That the Senate--
       (1) recognizes that free speech zones and restrictive 
     speech codes are inherently at odds with the freedom of 
     speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution 
     of the United States;
       (2) recognizes that institutions of higher education should 
     facilitate and recommit themselves to protecting the free and 
     open exchange of ideas;
       (3) recognizes that freedom of expression and freedom of 
     speech are sacred ideals of the United States that must be 
     vigorously safeguarded in a world increasingly hostile to 
     democracy;
       (4) encourages the Secretary of Education to promote 
     policies that foster spirited debate, academic freedom, 
     intellectual curiosity, and viewpoint diversity on the 
     campuses of public colleges and universities; and
       (5) encourages the Attorney General to defend and protect 
     the First Amendment across public colleges and universities.
  Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. President, it is so interesting to always come to 
the floor and speak on topics that are important to Tennesseans and I 
think also to Americans. As I begin my remarks, I want to kind of build 
the context for this and take us back to a time I know the Presiding 
Officer recalls, and so do I. It was the sixties. I was a child who was 
growing up. I remember it as a decade where bold statements and brash 
behavior and activists from each side of the aisle set the standard for 
what we today look at and say is a modern-day political protest. What 
we saw in this decade was once-sleepy college campuses became the 
scenes of widespread unrest. Tensions were high and conditions were 
perfect for what else but a Supreme Court battle.
  In September 1969, a group of students attending Central Connecticut 
State University decided they wanted to organize a local chapter of the 
organization Students for Democratic Society. The university president 
rejected the application, claiming that the SDS philosophy was 
``antithetical to the school's policies'' and could be a disruptive 
influence on campus.
  Now, I am sure he thought he had a good point. The national SDS 
organization was known for its fiery protests,

[[Page S3263]]

and its now-notorious acts of civil disobedience. They made it their 
business to make authority figures nervous. Nervousness, however, is 
not an exception to the First Amendment. The students knew that, so the 
lawsuits started flying. The students' case finally made it to the 
Supreme Court, which held that ``the First Amendment to the 
Constitution of the United States applies in full force on the campuses 
of public colleges and universities.'' That case, Healy v. James, was a 
win for free speech. Although precedent continues to trend in the right 
direction, the First Amendment is in danger on the American college 
campus. From so-called free speech zones to severely restricted speech 
codes, campus officials are doing their best to ensure that students 
are protected from anything that may challenge their preexisting 
notions of right and wrong.
  Instead of creating a safe environment, these policies have 
backfired, creating an atmosphere of fear and violence toward opposing 
viewpoints.
  Just this past April, protesters at the University of Texas at Austin 
used smoke bombs to shut down a pro-life speaker at a Young 
Conservatives of Texas event.
  In 2017, the editorial staff at Wellesley College's student newspaper 
threatened hostility toward anyone whose beliefs--their beliefs; not 
just their words but their beliefs--did not fit into the acceptable 
liberal mold.
  That same year, Middlebury College campus--their left behaved so 
disgracefully that one progressive columnist begged the students at his 
alma mater to find a way to protest views they disagree with without 
shutting down speech entirely.
  In the face of such hostility toward free and open debate, I ask this 
body, what have we done, and what can be done to turn back the tide?
  Today, on the eve of National Higher Education Day, I am introducing 
the Campus Free Speech Resolution of 2019. It is a first step in 
restoring sanity to free speech for American college students. This 
resolution first and foremost recognizes that free speech zones and 
restrictive speech codes contradict the guarantees of the First 
Amendment. 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.
  Through this resolution, I encourage the Secretary of Education to 
promote policies that encourage intellectual curiosity, viewpoint 
diversity, and debate. Last but not least, I encourage the Attorney 
General to defend and protect the First Amendment.
  Standing by as universities surrender to activists who value their 
own comfort over the free exchange of ideas isn't just a mistake; it is 
a moral inversion.
  We have a duty to make sure younger generations understand that 
protecting the First Amendment means protecting one another in the 
public square--even if we want more than anything to shut down what we 
are hearing. I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will 
defend your right to say it.
  Above all, we have a duty to help them understand that an America 
where curiosity is replaced by suspicion, where debate is replaced by 
intimidation, and where speech is replaced by silence is no America at 
all.

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