Lawmakers, alumni groups call for free speech on campuses: ‘There has to be some legal action’

Alumni Free Speech Alliance created to support free speech at colleges

Alliance members Stuart Taylor, Jim Bacon, and Kenny Xu discussed the group and how it aims to help protect the First Amendment on college campuses.

Three Republican members of Congress and various representatives for free speech alumni groups on Monday suggested taking legal action against colleges that allow students to be bullied for expressing certain beliefs. 

Republican Reps. Greg Murphy of North Carolina, Elise Stefanik of New York and Kat Cammack of Florida hosted a roundtable discussion regarding free speech on college campuses with individuals representing various free speech groups, including the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA).

“Maybe we will take legal action,” Murphy said during the roundtable discussion. ” … I’m a doctor. I hate to turn to lawyers for answers, but maybe [we] will.”

Reps. Elise Stefanik, Greg Murphy and Kat Cammack host a roundtable discussion about free speech on college campuses
(Greg Murphy’s office)

Murphy’s comments followed a suggestion from Ed Yingling of AFSA and Princetonians for Free Speech that schools that have adopted “the Chicago principles” – or the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression” – and then violate those principles may become subject to legal action.

The Chicago principles state that “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive.”

“Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community,” the rules state, according to the University of Chicago.

Reps. Elise Stefanik, Greg Murphy and Kat Cammack host a roundtable discussion about free speech on college campuses
(Greg Murphy’s office)

More than 80 schools have adopted the free-speech standard, according to FIRE.

“If you’re a university that’s signed the Chicago principles, and you allow a student to be bullied … you have a right of action against that college because you went to that college, and … you had the right to rely on those rules,” Yingling said during the discussion. “And if they don’t enforce those rules … Stuart [Taylor] and I believe that you have a right of action against that university.”

He added that the role of alumni groups that promote free speech on college campuses, like AFSA, is to support students enrolled at schools where faculty members and groups take issue with certain student ideologies and do not protect their rights to free speech.

AFSA’s Ed Yingling, Raj Kannappan and Kenny Xu 
(Greg Murphy’s office)

“There is a role for alumni here, and that is … there’s a small group at Princeton – there are like 20 people, young kids who speak up, very brave – but there’s a role for alumni because we can support them,” the Princeton alumnus said. 

Stefanik, Cammack and other speakers shared anecdotal evidence of colleges taking action against people who express right-leaning points of view on campus. Stefanik, a graduate of Harvard College, explained how she was booted out of Harvard’s Institute of Politics over her vote to support former President Trump’s unsuccessful push to reverse his presidential election defeat at the hands of Joe Biden.

The discussion comes as a 2021 FIRE survey of about 37,000 college students found that more than 80% of students have censored their own viewpoints on campus, with 21% saying they censor their viewpoints “often.” More than two-thirds of students said it is “acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus,” and 23% said “it is acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech.”

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