Cotton, McConnell Introduce College Campus Free Speech Act

Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton / Getty Images
August 6, 2020

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) introduced a bill to ensure that public universities properly comply with students' First Amendment rights.

Cotton and McConnell, along with Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R., Ga.) and Kevin Cramer (R., S.D.), introduced the Free Speech Restoration Act on Thursday. The bill will block federal funding to public schools that do not comply with federal regulations on such practices as free speech zones and speech codes. The bill allows the federal government to revoke funding to private universities that are insufficiently transparent about their own expression policies.

"The right to free expression is among the most precious of our liberties," Cotton’s office said in a press release. "The Campus Free Speech Restoration Act will ensure that this much-neglected liberty is restored and protected on our nation’s college campuses."

The bill also proposes a reporting process allowing students to file complaints if private universities fail to comply with their own speech codes. If the evidence of a violation is sufficient, these complaints could trigger a federal investigation. The bill, however, contains exemptions for religious institutions of higher education.

Higher education experts applauded the bill as a strong defense of First Amendment rights.

"An energetic effort to pass Cotton’s campus free-speech bill will do wonders—not just for our college campuses but for the country as a whole," wrote Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz. "In short, Tom Cotton’s Campus Free Speech Restoration Act is at the leading edge of the fight to restore liberty and constitutional principle to our college campuses—and to our country."