A congressional report released by the House of Representative's education committee Thursday unveiled what they described as "alarming" findings regarding the state of free speech at America's higher education institutions.
The Freedom of Speech and Its Protection on College Campuses report outlined the House Education and the Workforce Committee findings of First Amendment violations on college campuses throughout the county and provided legislative suggestions to tackle what they described as "growing illiberalism in postsecondary education."
The committee detailed dozens of examples of what congressional Republicans argue are instances of the "pervasive degradation of First Amendment rights on college campuses across the nation" executed by "political activists, woke faculty, and partisan administrators." The report claims these administrators have "established a dangerous trend that threatens students’ constitutionally guaranteed rights and the college education model that should, at its very core, be an open marketplace for all ideas to be heard, free of political bias and agendas."
Examples outlined in the report include occurrences of shout downs, speakers being disinvited, "cancellations," political litmus tests and censorship through bias response teams, which the committee said is not only a violation of constitutional rights, but also in direct contrast to what a college education should be.
The committee's chairwoman, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in a statement provided to FOX News Digital that these "unprecedented attempts to chill the exercising of free speech in postsecondary education have reached an all-time crescendo" and as a result, "the plague of illiberalism has taken root."
"While headway has been made within the states to enact sensible public policy to preserve the First Amendment rights of students and faculty, more must be done to fend off the corrosive ideology that is cancel culture," she added. "This report offers sensible solutions that can right the ship before it’s too late."
Over 60% of students believe the political and social climate on their campus prevents people from freely expressing their opinions, an increase of almost 10% in the past two years, according to a March 2022 survey cited in the report. In addition, 88% of students believe their college should foster environments where students and professors can have respectful dialogue with people whose views differ from their own.
"Freedom of speech is a vital ingredient to American postsecondary education," the report states. "Without it, our universities lose their purpose as truth seeking institutions and become pseudo-indoctrination camps where all truth trickles down from the top of bloated administrations. Sadly, many schools have policies and practices that unconstitutionally regulate the marketplace of ideas on their campuses."
In addition to the constitutional standards the committee believes universities need to meet, the report also argued America's higher institutions have a moral duty to promote free speech.
"When censorship or demagoguery become the norm, existing power structures become further entrenched and mobs become commonplace, perpetually searching for heretics to burn on the altar of public opinion," the report stated. "Modeling the art of disagreement, persuasion, and resolution produces better students and citizens than does the coerced conformity of a campus community."
Specific examples of how the committee said speech is controlled were outlined, including bias reporting systems or bias response teams that often consist of students or school personnel tasked with responding to and reporting on "bias incidents" that include unwanted or disliked speech at the university.
"The overly broad understanding of what qualifies as an incident worthy of investigation ultimately turns these teams into censor squads for anyone who has offended anyone else," the report states.
Similarly, so-called "free speech zones" are described by the committee as "oxymoronically named locations" that are marketed as areas where students can speak their mind and protest, but "effectively prohibit free speech anywhere outside the zone. The "free speech zones" are often reportedly small and in areas that are out of the way, which the congressional committee said actually adds more restrictions to free speech.
In addition, students are sometimes only allowed to use the free speech zones after they pre-register an event with an administrator, often days or weeks in advance or adhere to strict time limits on their activities.
"These zones are clearly illegal," the report stated. "Our Constitution does not split the nation between ‘free speech zones’ and ‘non-free speech zones.’ Subject to reasonable content and viewpoint neutral time, place, and manner restrictions, all public spaces in America should be free-expression areas, including our colleges and universities."
Another concern outlined in the report highlighted security fees that are sometimes assessed when a speaker deemed controversial visits campus.
"Supreme Court has held that varying the amount of security fees because of the anticipated hostility to speech is unconstitutional," according to the report. "A student or student group who is being asked to pay a security fee to host a speaker cannot receive a drastically different security fee assessment than another student or student group on the basis that their event might draw protest."
Other free speech infringements detailed included political litmus tests, which are sometimes met with academic or professional consequences for students and faculty if they failure to adopt the prescribed opinion and diversity statements where prospective hires are required to answer questions regarding their commitment to the ideology and practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The threat of being "canceled," socially ostracized or shouted down has led to more than 60% of students to worry that their reputation could be damaged because of something they said, while over 20% of students admitted to self-censorship. The National Association of Scholars has recorded 250 instances of cancelation of students and faculty in its cancel culture database with issues like abortion, gun control, law enforcement and race among the most difficult subjects to discuss freely on campus.
The report suggested that universities adopt "free speech statements," where public and private universities commit themselves to protecting the free expression of their students and faculty, citing the "Chicago Statement" which came out of the University of Chicago in 2014 and signaled commitment to the freedom of speech, as a great example.
While 23 states have enacted legislation to protect the First Amendment on college campuses, the report argued that current legislation doesn't provide enough protection for the constitutional rights of postsecondary students and faculty.
House Republicans offered potential legislative solutions to further protect expressive rights on college campuses that they believe consider how government power can promote free speech appropriately without infringing on other important rights or "enlarging already bloated bureaucracies."
The report specifically mentioned two pieces of potential legislation, Rep. Greg Murphy's, R-N.C., Campus Free Speech Restoration Act, which condemns universities for compelling students to believe in certain political or social ideologies during the admission process or faculty hiring and Rep. Elise Stefanik's, R-N.Y., Restoring Academic Freedom on Campus Act, which would require all Title IV-funded schools to end the use of political tests in admission, hiring, and promotion processes.
For more Culture, Media, Education, Opinion, and channel coverage, visit foxnews.com/media