Sen. Cotton introduces bill to defund public universities that limit free speech

The Campus Free Speech Restoration Act would establish that 'free speech zones and restrictive speech codes are contrary to the First Amendment.'

Cotton calls the legislation necessary 'in order to defend open debate and free speech, which lead us to truth.'

On May 10, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton introduced the Campus Free Speech Restoration Act to prevent schools from restricting students’ freedom of speech.

“Too many of America’s public colleges have attacked the First Amendment rights of their students using so-called free speech zones and unconstitutional speech codes,” Cotton stated. “This bill fights back against campus censors in order to defend open debate and free speech, which lead us to truth.”

Cotton recently told The New York Post that if enacted, the law could force universities to lose federal funding for abridging students’ rights to free expression.

[RELATED: Congressional campus free speech roundtable brings together representatives, free speech advocates]

“Colleges and universities ought to be centers of free thought and spirited debate — places where young Americans are exposed to all sides of an issue and sometimes hear things that they disagree with or maybe even makes them uncomfortable,” he said.

The Campus Free Speech Restoration Act is also designed to eliminate free speech zones that schools deem appropriate to hold open dialogue.

“The free speech zones on campus are usually relegated to the waste management treatment center in some corner of the campus where there’s never any foot traffic,” Cotton quipped. 

At the time of when the legislation was introduced, it had nine Republican co-sponsors in the Senate, including Mitch McConnell, Rick Scott, and Marco Rubio. Congressman Greg Murphy of North Carolina has recently introduced a similar bill before the House of Representatives.

Cotton’s proposed law would also “[r]equire private colleges and universities that receive federal funding to be transparent about their speech policies and enforce those policies in a consistent and neutral manner.”

[RELATED: ‘Hypocritical’: Pitt Provost announces year of ‘discourse and dialogue,’ despite stifling conservative speech]

Additionally, the legislation would “[m]ake sure the requirements of the Act do not apply to colleges and universities controlled by religious institutions.”

Raegen DeLancey, a student at the University of Wyoming, praised Cotton’s bill as a victory for college students and the nation as a whole.

“I think the proposal would be a great way to revitalize our society and help return college education to a system that allows for students to think for themselves and better understand the basics of what this country was founded on,” DeLancey told Campus Reform.

“This will allow students’ rights to be protected and loosen the tight control universities have implemented on their students over the course of the past several years. This could allow for students of all views to learn how to safely express themselves and better learn how to use their rights — it could even inspire future political leaders,” she added. 

Neither Senator Tom Cotton nor Congressman Murphy immediately responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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