Today’s charge on campus free speech is one in which the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) takes a particular level of interest. As TCCRI noted in a January 2017 White Paper entitled “Campus Free Speech Protection,” “the rights to speak freely and to freely associate on college campuses are in peril.” Indeed, the paper argues:
The Legislature should re-affirm the state’s commitment to open and robust dialogue on college campuses, including speech some may find offensive. Interacting with students from different walks of life who hold different views on a broad array of topics is one of the many benefits of higher education, and students should not be sheltered from or denied that opportunity because the views of some students are unpopular or controversial.
Institutions of higher education have a longstanding reputation as places where contrasting ideas are exchanged freely. Students attending those schools are exposed to ideas they may disagree with, but they need to be taught to tolerate and be respectful of different views, even if those views are offensive and hurtful. The marketplace of ideas has a long, successful history of good ideas prevailing over bad. The practices covered in this testimony—disinviting provocative speakers, punishing speech with overly broad “speech codes,” and relegating free speech to designated “zones”—are not in line with the historical role institutions of higher education have played in fostering a robust and rich public discourse. The committee is right to explore these issues. TCCRI submits this testimony in hopes that the Legislature will give this issue the high level of attention that it merits heading into the 86th Legislative Session.