Free to Speak: Reforming the Higher Education Act

National Association of Scholars

Editor's Note: The following statement was signed by more than 100 professors, scholars, writers, and representatives of civic and academic organizations when it was released on April 22. Since then, more than 340 additional signatories have joined. To add your name, please sign here

Free to Speak: Reforming the Higher Education Act

Intellectual freedom is the anvil on which great debates are hammered out.  It is the forge of civilization.  It is the fire in which we burn away the fallacies in the raw ore of ideas.

Higher education is the special place in society set aside for the freedom to seek the truth—but that freedom is under assault. In the last two years, there have been nearly 50 attempts to disinvite speakers from college campuses. More than 120 colleges and universities have speech codes that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech—frequently in violation of the First Amendment.

Many colleges discriminate against religious and other student groups, preventing them from organizing on campus, withholding funds from mandatory student activity fees, and denying the use of campus facilities.

Coupled with bias response teams, trigger warnings, and safe spaces, these policies teach students to obey the doctrines of political correctness, rather than to search boldly for the truth.

President Trump has taken a crucial first step toward restoring intellectual freedom to college campuses by issuing his executive order “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.” His leadership has earned national bipartisan support: 73 percent of the country supports his executive order.

Now Congress and the President must work together to ensure that the Higher Education Act, currently up for reauthorization, builds on the President’s executive order by holding colleges accountable when they do not respect intellectual freedom. 

In § 1011a, “Protection of student speech and association rights,” the HEA sets forth the “sense of Congress” that “an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas” and that “students should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from speaking out, or discriminated against.” It also explicitly protects religious liberty and association—for both students and for religious institutions. But this statutory language has had little effect on what colleges and universities actually do. That’s because the HEA provided no means to enforce the “sense of Congress.”

The Higher Education Act must cease rewarding public colleges for violating the First Amendment. Public institutions with restrictive speech zones and speech codes, discriminatory treatment of religious student groups, and other policies and practices that violate the First Amendment must be stripped of eligibility for federal student loans and grants.  The enforcement of such penalties must comply with all existing law.

And private colleges should make all speech and association policies transparent and open to the public, as a condition of eligibility for Title IV loans and grants. Students should be fully informed about private institutions’ speech climates before they choose to enroll.

Members of both parties have expressed concerns that college is too expensive, and much of the discussion around the reauthorization of the HEA has focused on reforming federal student aid. But without intellectual freedom, college is not a good investment. It is an empty forge and a cold furnace, where ideas are left to rust. Other reforms may bring the cost of college down, but we must better protect free inquiry in order to bring the quality of college up.

We call on Congress to cease subsidizing unlawful behavior by public colleges and universities, and to protect freedom of speech on college campuses.

All titles are for identification purposes only. Additional signatories may add their names here

Peter W. Wood, President, National Association of Scholars

Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Foundation

Jenna A. Robinson, President, James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal      

Matthew J. Peterson, Vice President of Education, Editor of The American Mind, Claremont Institute

Thomas K. Lindsay, Director, Center for Innovation in Education, Texas Public Policy Foundation

Morton C. Blackwell, President, The Leadership Institute

Robert Paquette, President, The Alexander Hamilton Institute    

Paul Rahe, Charles O. Lee and Louise K. Lee Chair in the Western Heritage, Hillsdale College

Charlie Copeland, President, Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Carrie L. Lukas, President, Independent Women's Forum              

Heather R. Higgins, President and CEO, Independent Women's Voice      

Charles Kesler, Professor of Government, Claremont McKenna College 

John Fonte, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for American Common Culture, Hudson Institute    

Robert Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Daniel Bonevac, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service, Chapman University Fowler School of Law

Eunie Smith, President, Eagle Forum

Rick Manning, President, Americans for Limited Government

George W. Dent, Jr., Schott - van den Eynden Professor of Law Emeritus, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Mark Bauerlein, Senior Editor, First Things Magazine, Professor of English, Emory University

Wilfred McClay, Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty, University of Oklahoma

Joy Pullmann, Executive Editor, The Federalist and Education Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute

Keith Whitaker, Chair, National Association of Scholars

Jim Lightfoot, Former Member of Congress

Jenny Beth Martin, Honorary Chairman, Tea Party Patriots Action

F.H. Buckley, Foundation Professor, Scalia Law School at George Mason University

Rachel Fulton Brown, Associate Professor of Medieval History, The University of Chicago

Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus, Ohio University

Jay Bergman, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University 

Tim Wildmon, President, American Family Alliance

Brandon Dutcher, Senior Vice President, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs         

James W. Muller, Professor of Political Science, University of Alaska, Anchorage

B. Nelson Ong, Ph.D., College of New Rochelle

Dr. Carol M. Swain, Former Tenured Professor at Princeton and Vanderbilt Universities

Rachelle Peterson, Policy Director, National Association of Scholars          

Sheldon Pollack, Professor, University of Delaware          

David R. Legates, Professor, University of Delaware

Jan H. Blits, Prof. Emeritus, University of Delaware           

John J. Laukaitis, Associate Professor, North Park University        

Harry Power, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University       

Christina Jeffrey, President, South Carolina Association of Scholars

Leila Beckwith, California Association of Scholars              

Sylvia Wasson, Professor of Foreign Languages, Santa Rosa Junior College             

Dwight Lindley, Associate Professor of English, Hillsdale College

George Leef, Director of Research, James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

Glenn M. Ricketts, Public Affairs Director, National Association of Scholars

Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Founder, The Veritas Forum

William B. Modahl, Alumnus of Dartmouth, Harvard Law, and Georgetown Law

Dr. Tim Daughtry, Author            

Jessie Jane Duff , Gunnery Sergeant USMC (ret), Senior Fellow, London Center for Policy Research

Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research & Analysis, Center for Security Policy

Allen Roth, President, Secure America Now

Harley Moody, Veterinarian

Colleen Sheehan, Professor, Villanova University

Brian Satterfield, Assistant Professor, Villanova University

Alain Oliver, Executive Director, Love and Fidelity Network

Stephen Napier, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Villanova University

James Matthew Wilson, Associate Professor, Villanova University

Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman,

Sandy Rios, Director of Governmental Affairs, American Family Alliance

George Rasley, Managing Editor,  

John McLaughlin, CEO, McLaughlin & Associates

Stella Morabito, Author

Nicholas Capaldi, Legendre-Soule Chair of Business Ethics, Loyola University New Orleans

Svetozar Pejovich, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University

Bruce Frohnen, Ella and Ernest Fisher Professor of Law, Ohio Northern University College of Law

Jeffrey Ludwig, Retired, NYC Dept. Of Education

Sheryl Kaufman, Retired Corporate Chief Economist        

Celeste Barber, English Instructor, retired, Santa Barbara City College

Lady Brigitte Gabriel, Founder & Chairman, ACT For America

Joseph H. Manson, Professor of Anthropology, UCLA

Charles L. Geshekter, Professor Emeritus, California State University, Chico

Daniel Asia, Professor of Music, University of Arizona

Royal Skousen, Department of Linguistics, Brigham Young University

J. Michael Waller, Ph.D., former Annenberg Professor of International Communication, Institute of World Politics

Gene Dattel, author and independent scholar

Marshall DeRosa, Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University

Steven Grosby, Professor, Clemson University

Dennis Saffran, lawyer and writer            

Steven H. Frankel, Professor of Philosophy, Xavier University

Andrew Spiropoulos, Professor of Law, Oklahoma City University

James Bradfield, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Hamilton College

Graham Gormley, Adjunct Professor, Villanova University

Stephen Eide, Policy Analyst

Julie Ponzi, Senior Editor, American Greatness

Donald Livingston, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Emory University

J. Christian Adams, President, Public Interest Legal Foundation

Barry Latzer, Professor of Criminal Justice, Emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Dean Allen, President, FreedomSource University

Ken Masugi, Lecturer, Johns Hopkins University, Advanced Academic Programs

Kevin E. Stuart, Ph.D., Executive Director, Austin Institute

EW Jackson, President, STAND Action, Inc.

Deal W. Hudson, Publisher, The Christian Review

Brenda Hafera, Director, International and Continuing Education Programs, The Fund for American Studies

Bob McEwen, Former Member of Congress         

Cleta Mitchell, Esq., Foley & Lardner, LLP

Nathaniel Peters, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Morningside Institute

T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr., President Emeritus, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, former assistant to President Reagan for Domestic Affairs

Michael S. Opitz, President, Madison Forum, LLC

Martin J. Burke, Associate Professor of History, Lehman College and the Graduate Center, the City University of New York

Forrest Nabors, Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Alaska Anchorage

S.T. Karnick, Director of Publications and Research Fellow, The Heartland Institute

Additional signatories may add their names here. Email Rachelle Peterson at [email protected] with any questions.

Additional signatories. (We list those with academic and civic affiliations.)

Jonathan Katz, Professor of Physics, Washington University

Hal R. Arkes, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Ohio State University

Jonathan B. Imber, Jean Glasscock Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College

Dr. Kenneth McIntyre, Associate Professor of Political Science, Sam Houston State University

Ernest Sternberg, Professor, University at Buffalo

Robert Gordon, Professor of Sociology (Ret.), Johns Hopkins University

John Broom, Associate Program Director, Graduate History Programs, Norwich University, CGCS

W. Douglas McMillin, Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University

Catharine Savage Brosman, Professor of French Emerita, Tulane University

Lee Cerling, Associate Professor, University of Southern California

Frank J Gaffney, Executive Chairman, Center for Security Policy

Becky Gerritson, Executive Director, Eagle Forum of Alabama

Patrick Nolan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina

Kendall Svengalis, President, New England LawPress

Richard Phelps, Founder, Nonpartisan Education Group

S. M. Hutchens, Senior Editor, Touchstone, Fellowship of St. James

J. Martin Rochester, Curators' Teaching Professor of Political Science, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Gordon E. Finley, Ph.D., Prof. Emeritus of Psychology, Florida International University

Alan White, retired, ADW Assoc.

Martin D. Yaffe, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Texas

Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D., Former Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University

Gary Thomas, educator

William H. Pound, Ph.D.

Curt Stiles, Professor of Management, University of North Carolina Wilmington

John Gist, Professor of Humanities, Western New Mexico University

Matthew Hickey, Professor, Colorado State University

Peter Myers, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Paul Cantor, Professor, University of Virginia

Max Hocutt, Retired Professor of Philosophy, University of Alabama

Robert Osburn , Executive Director, Wilberforce Academy

Maarten van Swaay, Emeritus Professor, Kansas State University

Brian R. Van Camp, Retired Judge, Superior Court/CA

Jake Hoffman, President, Rally Forge

Jane Fraser, President, Stuttering Foundation

Richard Halvorson, Retired Priest and University Professor

Teresa S. Collett, Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas

Robert Jeffrey, Professor of Government, Wofford College

David Deavel, Assistant Professor, Catholic Studies, University of St. Thomas

Robert G. Kennedy, Professor of Catholic Studies, University of St Thomas

Larry Ross, Professor of Economics, University of Alaska Anchorage

Deborah Savage, Clinical Professor of Philosophy and Theology, University of St. Thomas

Michael Maller, Professor of Mathematics, Queens College of CUNY

Hugh O'Neill, IT Consultant

J. R. Hall, Professor of English Emeritus, University of Mississippi

David B. Frisk , Resident Fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute

Walter Block, Loyola University New Orleans

Gregory Josefchuk, President, National Coalition For Men Carolinas

D. Brendan Nagle, Professor of History Emeritus, University of Southern California

Jacques du Plessis, Professor, UWM

Stephen Hildrich, retired, Connecticut State Judicial Branch

Jason Jewell, Professor of Humanities, Faulkner University

David Black, Founder, Chairman, President, 2ndVote

Darrell Y. Hamamoto, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis

Robert Heidt, Professor Emeritus of Law, Indiana University Mauer School of Law

John Wenger, Professor of Mathematics (retired), Harold Washington College

Michael Bennett, Professor, Curry College

Scott Idleman, Professor, Marquette University

Robert E. Wright, Nef Family Chair of Political Economy, Augustana University

John Robert Renner, Duane Morris LLP

Mark Lee, Professor in Residence and J. Lawrence Irving Senior Distinguished Teaching Fellow, University of San Diego School of Law

Robert Carle, Professor of Theology, The King's College

Bruce Heiden, Professor of Classics, Ohio State University

Paul Bartow, Ph.D. Student, University of South Carolina

C.B. McCorkle, Consultant, Arbonne International

Charles Busbey, Data Analyst, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

Kevin M. Moore, Ph.D., J.D.  Professor of Music, General Counsel, Onondaga Community College

David Anderson, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma

Sheldon Hecht, Adjunct Associate Professor, UMUC

John Blough, US Merchant Marine Officer

Steve Grooms, Pastor, Monroe Church of the Nazarene

John B Goodrich, Tonini Farm & Cattle Company

Charles Nickerson, Emeritus faculty, Bridgewater State University

Leon Jones, SmileKeepers Dental

Rosemary Hopcroft, Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Jeanine Kincheloe, Faculty, Sinclair College

Jean Morris, Retired Educator, Fulton County School System

Mary Eames-Rock, Retired language specialist

Paul M. Dowling, Emeritus Professor of English, Canisius College

David Mackey, Engineering Technician, City of Fort Smith

James Donovan, Professor of History, Penn State Mont Alto

Charlotte Sciola, retired district administrator, Saugus School District, MA

Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness

James Simpson, Investigative Journalist

Mitch Counts, Former Law School Professor, Belmont University

Rev. Dr. Ronald L. Sims, Retired Ordained Minister

Bernard Geiger, Assistant Chaplain, Apostolate for Family Consecration

Jim Windham, Publisher, The Texas Pilgrim

Rick Lott, Professor, Arkansas State University

David Caspary, Retired, Michigan Technological University

Timothy Burns, Professor, Baylor University

James Kahn, Professor, Yeshiva University

Bradley Burchett, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Stephanie D Moussalli, Visiting scholar, School of Accountancy, University of Mississippi

Bernadette Ward, Associate Professor, English, University of Dallas

Kenneth L. Grasso, Professor of Political Science, Texas State University

George Adams, Professor, Idaho State University

J Hunter Brown, Managing Member, Watson Wilkins & Brown, LLC

Ryan P. Williams, President, Claremont Institute

Tejeanne De Milo, Homeschool Educator, Desert Rose Homeschool

Jason D. Hill, Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University

Maimon Schwarzschild, Professor of Law, University of San Diego

Daphne Patai, Professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Board of Directors of FIRE

Asaf Romirowsky, Executive Director, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Yoram Lubling, Professor of Philosophy, Elon University

Juliana Geran Pilon, Senior Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization

Robin Burk MBA PhD, Managing Director, Analytic Decisions2 LLC

Robert Crook, Executive Director, CT Sportsmen

Kevin T. Brady, PhD, CEO and President, Hibernian Global Education Initiative

Beverly Uhlmer, Area Director, Concerned Women for America of Southern Texas

Matthew Spiegel, Professor, Yale University

Paul Fallavollita, President, Greenville 25, Greenville County Republican Party, South Carolina

James E. Moore, II, Professor, University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, Price School of Public Policy

Jennifer H. Waldeck, Professor, Chapman University

John Craig, President, Craig Farm Historic Preservation Foundation

Alfred K. Siewers, Associate Professor of English, Bucknell University

Alexander Riley, Professor of Sociology, Bucknell University

Chip Weiant, Senior Fellow, Sagamore Institute, Center For Civic Character

Michael Uhlmann, Professor of Politics and Government, Claremont Graduate University

George A. Seaver, President, SeaLite Engineering   

Laura Haynes, Chair of Research and Legislative Policy, National Task Force for Therapy Equality

Dr. Richard Reeb, Retired college instructor, Barstow College

Lawrence Brunner, Professor, Economics, Central Michigan University

Dwight Hughes, Independent Scholar           

Elizabeth Eastman, Ph.D.

Fred Naiden, Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gladden Willis, MD  

Richard Sypher, Retired Professor of English, Hofstra University

David Duval, Alumnus, Princeton University

Gary Smuts, Instructor, University of La Verne

Michael Cutler, Operations manager, Cutler International

Fiorella Weaver, retired educator      

Maarten van Swaay, emeritus professor, Kansas State University

Philip Hartley, Design Director, Fjord Design and Innovation

Shelly Kennedy, President and CEO, Shore Cybersecurity, LLC

David Gale, President, Delta Dividend Group, Inc.

Christine Ries, Professor of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology

Alan White, retired from Bell Telephone Labs

James Huffman, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Lewis & Clark Law School

Michael Barton, Prof. Emeritus of American Studies and Social Science, Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg

Malcolm Sherman, Math professor, Univ at Albany, SUNY

Dan Subotnik, Professor of law, Touro Law School

Ben Voth, Associate professor and Director of Debate, Southern Methodist University

John Sparks, Fellow, Center for Faith and Freedom, Grove City College    

Mark Fineman, Professor Emeritus, Southern Connecticut State University

Bryan J. Van Deun, EdD, Retired, Doane College

Steven Samson, Retired Professor of Government   

William Bedford Clark, Professor, Texas A&M University

Michael Mendle, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of History, University of Alabama

Jonathan Leaf, Playwright, Sheen Center

Randall Roth, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii School of Law

Michelle Peacock, Clinical & Forensic Psychologist

David R. Musher, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine

Dario Fernandez-Morera, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Northwestern University

Anne Burley, Professor Emerita, Towson University Maryland

Anthony Andreoli, Partner/Founder, Tribeca Workshop

Anthony Conte, Attorney

Lani Kirsch, Ph.D, History and Religious Studies    

Marc Trachtenberg, Research Professor of Political Science, UCLA

John Droz, Jr., Physicist, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED)

Lester Brickman, Professor of Law Emeritus , Cardozo Law School

Gary Craig, Retired enrollment VP, University of Delaware

Steve Pejovich, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University           

Sharon Waite Ph.D., Retired professor          

David Sweet, Associate Professor of Classics, University of Dallas

David Jeffrey, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion, Baylor University

Ron Behling, Adjunct Professor of History, Los Angeles Mission College

D. H. Williams, Professor of Patristics and Historical Theology, Baylor University

Bradley C. S. Watson, Professor of Politics and Philip M. McKenna Chair in American and Western Political Thought, Saint Vincent College

Brian Sirman, Lecturer, Boston University

Byron Johnson, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University

M. Northrup Buechner, Associate Professor, St. John's University, New York

Thomas G. Dineen III, M.A. (Oxon.), LL.M, Securities Regulator

Additional signatories may add their names here. Email Rachelle Peterson at [email protected] with any questions.

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