Universities

Oklahoma governor signs bill to create ‘free speech committee’ for public universities and colleges

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a invoice in the law Wednesday that creates a free speech oversight committee for the state’s public colleges and universities. House Bill 3543 passed with bipartisan support from the state Senate earlier this week.

HB 3543 would create the Oklahoma Committee on Free Speech of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, which is the governing body for public institutions of higher education in the state. The bill tasks the new committee with reviewing and recommending college free speech policies and training, as well as reviewing complaints from students and faculty who believe their First Amendment rights have been violated. been violated.

The bill marks a break with current practices of culture warfare by encouraging After freedom of expression on university campuses. HB 3543 seems far more consistent with a belief in the importance of free speech and cultural rights than conservative efforts to ban discussion of “notions of division” and abolish tenure or liberal efforts to demand that students and faculty adhere to progressive groupthink.

The Bill’s sponsor, Chad Caldwell, (R-Enid) argue that HB 3543 would establish a “understanding of a few general concerns, primarily that our colleges and universities are prepared to protect the rights and free speech rights of all our faculty and staff.”

When drafting the bill, Caldwell drew inspiration from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a First Amendment organization focused on colleges and universities. Zero Oklahoma Schools Achieved Fires green light notethat is given to universities with written policies that protect the free speech rights of students and the academic freedom of faculty.

“FIRE is pleased to see Governor Stitt sign HB 3543,” said FIRE Legislative Counsel John Coleman. Reason in an email. “The establishment of a committee that will review the speech policies of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities is a positive step forward in protecting and promoting the free speech rights of students and faculty.”

“We shouldn’t worry about a professor getting fired if he says this or that,” Caldwell said. “We shouldn’t have a student who has to worry, if I don’t take a Republican point of view or a liberal point of view that I’m going to get an ‘F’ on a paper. That shouldn’t be something who goes to one of our colleges or universities.”

The bill passed the 48-person Senate with only two opposing votes.

In a statement in response to the legislation, the State Board of Regents mentioned, “As public colleges and universities, our state system institutions embrace the First Amendment and recognize the importance of free speech, which is reflected in a myriad of views shared across academic discourse on campus. across the state.” The Council continued:If this measure becomes law, we will follow the provisions to create a process that ensures that our institutions continue to be places where the open exchange of ideas and perspectives is encouraged and protected.