Congress passes free speech amendment
Provision urges protection of constitutional rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An amendment supporting greater First Amendment protection for college students was included as part of a bill that overwhelmingly passed through Congress this summer.
The House’s version of amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965, H.R. 6, was sent to the other end of the Capitol by a 414-4 vote in May. The Senate version was approved, 96-1, in early July.
Introduced by Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., in the House and by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in the Senate, the freedom of expression and association provision would denounce university administrators who punish a student, from either a public or private school, for speaking freely.
Specifically, both versions state that if a student gathers with others peacefully, or engages in any other expression protected by the First Amendment, on or off campus, the individual should be protected from “… expulsion, suspension, probation, censure, condemnation, reprimand, or any other disciplinary, coercive, or adverse action taken by an institution of higher education …”
However, the Senate provision says efforts by university administrators to discourage alcohol abuse and to take action against violators of state liquor laws will not be considered violations of the free speech legislation.
Michael Frandsen, press secretary for Craig, said a Congressional committee will iron out the details of all the bill1s amendments before it goes to the president’s desk.
“There are a lot of examples about students’ constitutional rights being infringed upon,” Frandsen said. “[Craig] feels that this has got to stop.”
Sidney Dunn, a member of the Coalition for Freedom of Association, a group comprised of national fraternity and sorority leaders who supported the provision, said private school students will benefit the most from the legislation.
“Any school receiving any kind of federal funds should have the same rights as public schools whose rights have always been upheld in court cases,” he said. “The major benefit is that students at private schools will get the opportunity to express their freedom of association in any organization that follows the law.”
Fall 1998, reports