New bill: Allow students to sue colleges for free speech violations

A college professor doesn't believe that campuses are liberal echo chambers. Maybe he doesn't get that perception is reality. (Photo via AP)

A college professor doesn’t believe that campuses are liberal echo chambers. Maybe he doesn’t get that perception is reality. (Photo via AP)

The Texas House of Representatives is considering a bill that would greatly enhance the right to free speech for students on college campuses in Texas.

Under H.B. No. 2527, students would be able to sue Texas colleges and universities in state court for up to one year from the date that their speech was violated.

According to the legislation, colleges and universities could be subject to litigation if they refused to allow students and faculty the option to “spontaneously and contemporaneously assemble or distribute written material” without permission from university administrators.

Additionally, the text of the bill also states that colleges and universities would face multiple violations of this law for each day that they refuse to allow students the right to organize free speech events or demonstrations. This is a crucial step in preventing universities from bullying students by delaying approval or blocking speakers just because they are conservative. In 2016, a number of colleges and universities attempted to block conservative commentator Ben Shapiro from appearing on their campus to speak. Under this bill, each day that they engaged in such censorship would constitute a separate violation of this law.

The Bill is co-authored by Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), a freshman legislator in the Texas House and himself a victim of conservative censorship while attending college. While attending the South Texas College of Law, Cain attempted to organize a debate with that included a speaker who had authored a book critical of the New Black Panther movement. When he asked for permission, his school refused to approve the event and prevented him from bringing the speaker to campus.

In an interview with watchdog.org‘s Ashe Schow, Cain said he simply wants to make it easier for students to hold colleges universities accountable for attempting to censor them.

“Essentially, when the government violates its citizen’s civil liberties, it should not be so hard to hold your government accountable,” Cain said.

Rep. Cain is not the the only Texas lawmaker concerned about the lack of free speech on college campuses. In addition to Cain’s bill, Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham, (R-Lakeway), has proposed a bill that would make it illegal for “any institution, official or employee from disinviting a speaker who has been requested to speak at the institution by members of the university community.”

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the number of instances of campus speakers being disinvited reached a record high of 42 in 2016, most of whom were conservative speakers.


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