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The U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism” resulted in statements from campus leaders placing overbroad restrictions on student expression related to the Israel-Hamas war. This misguided effort is meant to protect students from harassment and incitement to imminent violence, two behaviors already illegal under United States law. 

Although on their face these leaders’ statements seem to protect students, their true impact is to endanger student rights. College presidents are deviating from established speech protections, sacrificing free speech to placate an outraged public.

Furthermore, if institutions of higher education choose to apply broad and vague speech restrictions on protected political expression, the college’s administrators will inevitably make arbitrary, political decisions about who may speak and what they may say on campus. The result would undoubtedly compromise the truth-seeking process free expression enables and for which institutions of higher education exist.

To the extent that college presidents want to ensure they prohibit unprotected speech at their institutions, they should look no further than the First Amendment. It clearly distinguishes protected speech from punishable misconduct, allowing colleges to ensure campus safety while protecting expressive rights.  

Join us in reminding college leaders at Stanford, Yale, Cornell and Columbia that the solution to the current conflict is not to censor more speech — it's to eliminate speech codes and consistently defend expressive rights for all.