As part of his list of interim charges, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is asking the Texas Senate’s State Affairs Committee to “look at freedom of speech on college campuses to make sure there are no restrictions on the right of Texas students to express their views on campus.”
Interim charges are sent out by leaders of both chambers of the Texas Legislature following each legislative session, and recommendations are made as to what key issues committees in each chamber should investigate, most often in hopes of drafting legislation or making future decisions based on findings.
The Senate State Affairs Committee, chaired by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place) was specifically tabbed by Patrick to investigate the issue, as opposed to the Senate Higher Education Committee, which is chaired by State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), a longtime opponent of both Patrick and conservative reforms.
The decision by Patrick to study the issue of speech rights on college campuses comes in the wake of several instances where those rights were stifled, most recently when State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) was denied the right to speak at Texas Southern University, by the university’s administration.
However, incidents like this are not isolated; several public universities are notorious for their outright disregard for free speech rights on campus.
During the last legislative session, legislation that would have taken steps to protect the First Amendment on campus, HB 2527, died in the House Higher Education Committee. A similar bill authored by State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) passed the Texas Senate, and died in the same committee.
Public universities receive taxpayer dollars and have a sacred obligation to uphold the rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s interim charge may lead to legislation in the next session that helps protect the speech rights of all Texans.