Politico: Alexander warns against federal action on campus speech

Posted on September 17, 2018

Politico: Alexander warns against federal action on campus speech

By Kimberly Hefling

September 17, 2018



HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander said Monday that he opposes laws to regulate free speech on campus — even as he emphasized that he worries the stifling of speech will undermine America's higher education education system.

"I do not want to see Congress or the president or the department of anything defining what a speech code should be or should not be, what you can say, or what you shouldn't," said Alexander (R-Tenn.), speaking at a Justice Department forum on campus free speech.

Alexander said he believes the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, along with private right of actions, should define speech. If Congress were to weigh in, he said he worries about pendulum shifts depending on who is in office, as well as a backlash.

Solutions Alexander said he does support include forums like the one he was participating in and the Justice Department weighing in on court cases. He also encouraged university leaders to use "creativity and enthusiasm" to ensure that underrepresented views — often those of conservatives — are represented on campuses, similar to diversity initiatives campuses have taken.

"Diversity means, should mean, that you have real differences of opinion allowed and expressed," Alexander said.

Alexander noted that a Pew Research Center poll last year found that 58 percent of those surveyed said colleges and universities have a negative effect on the way things are going in the country. He said he thinks that's "directly related to the feeling that conservative views are under represented."

The problem is a "very big threat to the quality and support to higher education" in the U.S., he said.