The best education I’ve received in college hasn’t come through lectures but rather the debates I’ve had with my fellow students and professors. Regularly, I find myself defending the pro-life movement, the morality of capitalism, and personal responsibility over government reliance. Those debates have forced me to conduct research, find convincing rhetoric, and analyze just how much I actually knew about a subject. Such pressure from ideas with which I disagree pushes me to learn.
Unfortunately, anti-free speech policies either confine these challenging discussions to limited portions of a campus or outright limit what students can say. Such limitations hamper the education that all students will receive. A newly proposed piece of legislation hopes to ensure our rights are protected, and that students everywhere receive a more fulfilling experience.
Senators Cotton, Cramer, McConnell, and Loeffler introduced the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act on August 6th. Under this legislation, schools that enact unconstitutional speech policies will be subject to a loss of federal student loans and grants, but certain exemptions are granted to schools operated by religious institutions.
Organizations like YAF and FIRE have already won several lawsuits against speech codes but free speech zones and other restrictive measures have remained prevalent regardless. FIRE’s 2020 report showed that nearly 25% of universities have enacted speech codes of some sort. While the free speech movement has had unrivaled success with small victories, lawsuits are often too high of a barrier of entry for most students in their fight for freedom. Legislation is needed to rid campuses of speech restrictions in their entirety, and this bill offers a promising start.
Thankfully, the punitive measures suggested are far too severe for any institution to risk violating. A halt on federal funds makes imposing restrictions almost unthinkable—and rightly so. An institution that receives public funds and yet restricts freedoms should face righteous indignation and punishment. Universities especially are bastions of the free thought and intellectual growth upon which our liberal society depends.
Free speech on campuses has already been a long and arduous fight for conservatives and Christians. Conservative speakers are regularly kicked off of campus, students face backlash for posting right-leaning content, and conservative professors are pressured into resigning by the university administration.
However, conservatives aren’t the only ones who would benefit from this Senate legislation. Right-leaning colleges, as few as they are, are beholden to these laws all the same. On those same campuses, liberal students will be free to engage in any sort of discussion and debate without fear of repercussions from the administration. Without it, they could fall victim to the same oppressive policies that conservatives have tried to fight back for decades.
Without reform, we stand to lose out on what truly shapes us in our college years. Ideas need to face challenge. The greatest space for most college-educated individuals to face vigorous and substantive debate will have been on their campus. When we dictate that free thought and debate should be shunned and cornered to some far off portion of campus, we limit the intellectual challenge with which most students will ever have to contend and thereby their learning more generally.
While we regularly rant and rave about how unyieldingly opposed college curriculum is to conservatives, we’ve been given a blessing in disguise. Defending the free market and capitalism, the founding of America, and sweeping entitlement reform has only grown my knowledge and admiration for these issues. I have openness to discussion and freedom of speech to thank for that. Students who come into school with opinions that align with the often left-leaning curriculum will never face those same intellectual challenges, and restrictive speech codes only further that.
If we strike down speech policies, we provide students with a far deeper and more engaging college experience than if they are fed content that they already believe. Countless lives have been lost in order to hold up the God-given right of freedom of expression, and the very institutions that we employ to mold our future generations often trample on that right. Liberty cannot and will not be confined, and the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act will ensure that it’s not the case, and it’s the least that we could do in an attempt to preserve it.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.