The House Oversight Committee in the state of Michigan has passed a bill to protect free speech at all public higher education institutions.
The House Bill 4436 approved by the committee is now headed to the House Judiciary Committee.
Introduced by Rep. John Reilly, the bill prohibits the university from restricting free speech to “free speech zones”, as they are designated in minimal-traffic areas on campus grounds and often result in costly litigation.
The bill would also introduce free speech policies for state public universities that are consistent with the First Amendment.
“It’s really disappointing to witness Michigan’s public colleges – which are supposed to be ‘marketplaces of ideas’ – fail to uphold the constitutional rights of students and the community on campus grounds,” Reilly said.
“Every public institution supported by taxpayer dollars has the responsibility to adopt and promote speech policies that comply with the right to free speech and assembly. Unfortunately, due to the unwillingness of multiple state universities to ensure the First Amendment rights on their campuses, the Legislature must intervene in this matter.”
In March, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to enforce free speech on college campuses across the country. The order allows 12 federal agencies to withhold federal research or education grants, excluding federal student aid funding, from colleges that practice censorship.
Critics of the order, who classified it as a “political agenda” and castigated Trump for setting a dangerous precedent of taking “punitive action” against colleges, were worried that the move could “discredit” the higher education system and undermine public trust.
Since the order was signed, colleges and universities have been under increased pressure to not censure free speech.