FIRE President David French appeared before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on September 19 to discuss the state of liberty on Pennsylvania’s public campuses. Testifying to the bipartisan Select Committee on Student Academic Freedom, French explained that Pennsylvania’s public universities and colleges routinely disregard their legal obligation to respect the freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion. He recounted several examples of illiberal speech codes and other repressive policies enacted by administrations that would silence or otherwise punish individuals or groups for engaging in constitutionally protected expression or activities. (Please visit FIRE’s Spotlight to learn more about the policies and actions of Pennsylvania’s state schools.)
Although House members formed the committee in response to complaints about political bias in the academy, French advised the committee to narrow its investigative focus to state colleges’ and universities’ institutional violations of the individual rights protected by the Constitution. He further urged the committee not to interfere with the academic freedom of either professors or students. FIRE hopes to use its reputation as a nonpartisan and principled advocate for civil liberties on campus to steer the direction of the debate toward a better understanding of the failure of Pennsylvania’s public universities and colleges to adhere to the fundamental principles of liberty.
Please continue to check FIRE’s website for updates on FIRE’s involvement with the committee’s hearings.