On Tuesday, June 20th, 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled “Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses.” The hearing addressed many of the ubiquitous problems occurring at American universities in the First Amendment context — many of which are now being challenged in a lawsuit filed on Monday, June 19th, 2017 by The Lawfare Project and global law firm Winston & Strawn against San Francisco State University and its officials.
Watch the full hearing HERE.
The Lawfare Project was encouraged to hear widespread support for First Amendment rights on college campuses and concern among Senators about the current state of university-sanctioned restrictions on free speech.
Preeminent First Amendment jurist Floyd Abrams, nationally recognized as the nation’s most distinguished free speech advocate, referenced the SFSU matter in his oral and written testimony, where he said:
Other notable quotes from the hearing include:
“But on too many campuses today, free speech appears to be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. Many administrators believe that students should be shielded from hate speech, whatever that is, as an exception to the First Amendment.”
Senator Chuck Grassley
“It is the essence of democracies that we have diversity…and diversity involves differences and differences of opinion…”
Senator Richard Blumenthal
“…speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend. That is the law. That is what the First Amendment teaches us.”
“…it is an abdication of the universities’ responsibility to educate — to teach their students about the importance of responding to speech with arguments and not with suppression.”
Professor Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law
“For me, free speech and intellectual freedom matters because free speech and intellectual freedom are among the founding principles that animate the vibrance and ensure the sustenance of our democracy.”
Zachary Wood, a student at Williams College and leader of the Uncomfortable Learning speaker series
“It’s tragic what is happening at so many American universities where college administrators and faculties have become complicit in functioning what is essentially a speech police, [and] deciding what speech is permissible and what isn’t.”
Senator Ted Cruz
“No matter how repugnant one may find a speaker’s views, as long as the college has a policy of allowing student groups to invite people from outside their campus to speak, they cannot pick and choose based on the views the speaker holds.”
Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center
A copy of the SFSU complaint can be found here.
Lawfare Project Director of Legal Affairs
Lawfare Project Director