Legislation to eliminate “free-speech zones” on college campuses and allow for students to partake in “expressive speech” anywhere they so choose on the grounds of a college campus passed the Texas Senate earlier this week. However, opposition from university administrators combined with the short time left in the session means the bill is unlikely to pass.
As it currently stands, many public universities across the country, those in Texas included, limit students from expressive speech when they are outside a certain and extremely small, part of campus.
Senate Bill 1151 by State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R–Lakeway) comes in the wake of several startling, and often violent, attempts by students and academic staff on campuses across the country trying to stifle opposing, mostly conservative views off of public college campuses.
Though it was watered down in committee, Buckingham’s legislation was reinvigorated into a robust free speech protection bill on the Senate floor through an amendment by State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola). The bill now proceeds to the Texas House, and has been referred to the House Committee on Higher Education.
Though the concept of allowing students to freely speak out should garner bipartisan agreement, SB 1151 is likely to be killed in the Texas House, by Republicans and Democrats loyal to university administrators.
Taxpayer funded, public universities should be required by law to adhere to the basic rights and freedoms that the Constitution protects. Lawmakers should lead the way in protecting free speech and pass SB 1151.