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Texas bill would prohibit colleges from rejecting speakers just because they're controversial

The bill addresses a growing problem in higher education

Emily Molli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Texas Senate passed a bill this week aimed at prohibiting schools from banning speakers on campus due to the controversial nature of their content or reputation, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The bill is SB 18, authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, who believes that as long as speech is protected under the Constitution, it should be allowed on public college and university campuses.

"The bill requires that universities embrace the idea that each and every person at the university has a constitutional right to speak freely," Huffman said. "Just because speech is offensive does not mean that it's not protected."

What does the bill do?

One of the key purposes of the bill is to set specific regulations regarding the grounds on which a university may reject a speaker from appearing on campus. From the bill:

"In determining whether to approve a speaker to speak on campus or in determining the amount of a fee to be charged for use of the institution's facilities for purposes of engaging in expressive activities, an institution of higher education: (1) may consider only content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral criteria related to the needs of the event ... (2) [an institution of higher education] may not consider (A) the anticipated attendance of persons not intending to participate in the event; or (B) any anticipated controversy related to the event."

The bill also includes language protecting student organizations from any punishment or denial of benefits "on the basis of a political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoint expressed by the organization or of any expressive activities of the organization."

Why was this bill created?

Some Texas schools have had issues with politically-motivated student organization conflicts, and with controversial speakers, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Young Conservatives at the University of Texas reportedly had disputes with liberal students over a table on campus supporting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, resulting in damage to the Young Conservatives' signs.

Texas A&M stirred controversy by hosting Richard Spencer on campus in 2016, and then rejecting him in 2017 in light of the violence and the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One last thing…
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