Owens Backs Students’ First Amendment Rights

WASHINGTON – Higher Education and Workforce Development Chair Burgess Owens (UT-04) helped introduce the Students Bill of Rights, legislation to protect the First Amendment rights of students and student organizations on America’s college campuses. 

“The ability to speak freely is a cornerstone of American postsecondary education,” said Rep Owens. “Students should feel empowered to explore differing perspectives, challenge conventional wisdom, and engage in robust discourse without fear of shout-downs or cancellations. I’m proud to join Rep. Erin Houchin in advancing the Students Bill of Rights to defend the First Amendment right of every student and ensure that our universities remain strongholds of diverse thought, not echo chambers of conformity.”

The Students Bill of Rights Act of 2024:

  • Recognizes that student groups often struggle to find faculty sponsors and ensures that alternative options for recognition are available, such as an appeals process, to guarantee that all student groups have equal opportunities for recognition.
  • Mandates that institutions publicly disclose their process for distributing funding to student clubs and requires all student funds to be distributed in a viewpoint-neutral manner, eliminating ideological bias in funding decisions.
  • Prevents discrimination based on ideological viewpoints. Requires institutions to publicly disclose their security fee structure and charge security fees in a viewpoint-neutral manner.
  • Mandates that institutions disclose their policies regarding protections for campus speakers and implement disciplinary measures for students who threaten speaker safety, ensuring that all students can express their views without fear of violence.

The full text of the legislation is available here

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