ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

House Committee Holds Joint Hearing on Freedom of Speech in Higher Education

May 25, 2018 by Shaun Rieley

It seems nearly every week there are new reports of the silencing of diverse viewpoints on American college and university campuses. Protests that result in a de facto “heckler’s veto” effectively shut down points of view, narrowing the range of ideas that may be expressed and impoverishing discourse on campus.

The United States Congress has taken note of these events and has begun to look into the issue. On Tuesday, May 22, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a joint hearing entitled “Challenges to the Freedom of Speech on College Campuses,” the second in a series of hearings on the topic.

Among the witnesses were Robert P. George, ACTA friend and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton; Allison Stanger, Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College; and self-described “professor in exile” Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State University. The hearing also included Mr. Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Dr. Shaun Harper, Provost Professor of Education and Business, Allen Chair in Urban Leadership, and Executive Director of the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California.

The discussion was wide-ranging, and at times contentious, including differences of opinion regarding the primary source of threats to free speech, whether religious institutions are due certain exemptions given their particular missions, and who should be allowed to determine what speech is acceptable on campuses. 

Finding a way forward on these and other pressing issues will not be easy, but it must begin by engaging those who hold contrasting opinions in respectful but robust discussion. Thankfully, the U.S. House of Representatives is taking the lead by bringing together a range of perspectives to examine free speech on campus.

In this spirit, ACTA has recently published an essay by Constitutional Law scholar Joyce Lee Malcolm, professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, entitled Building a Culture of Free Expression on the American College Campus: Challenges & Solutions, which can be downloaded for free from ACTA’s website.

Watch a recording of the hearing here.

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