Free speech bill passes with support from student group Young Conservatives of Texas

The Senate Committee on State Affairs met on Monday, March 11th, 2019, to hear public testimony on Senate Bill 18, a bill that would lighten free speech restrictions on public college campuses. Members of Young Conservatives of Texas came from across the state in order to show support for the bill in hopes of seeing it get passed.

The bill weakens public university administrations’ powers in limiting student speech and expression on campus property. This is done through provisions in the bill that allow students to assemble and distribute written material without a permit or other permission from the institution.

The bill also has numerous provisions that address protections for students bringing speakers to their events. These range from changing public university standards so that they must be content-neutral toward speakers to essentially getting rid of the so-called “Heckler’s Veto” by not taking into account anticipated controversy related to the event. The “Heckler’s Veto” is when a school predicts that protestors of a political speech or event will get violent or disruptive, and cancelthe event before it even begins.

The members of Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) who came to show support for the bill cited numerous times when their universities seemed to favor left-wing groups. Nick Ciggelakis, the YCT chapter chairman for Texas A&M University, spoke of a time when he submitted a flyer application to the university, something that normally is approved within 24 hours but took the university a week to approve and return to the organization.

Members from other chapters around the state told similar tales. Harold Holdridge, chapter chairman for Texas State University, told of a time a year and a half ago when the University Police told him he had to take down the flyers he was putting up for an event the next day. When asked why, he was told that he needed to get university approval for anything that he wanted to hang up or hand out to students the next day. This was in contrast to left-wing organizations like Antifa that had their material posted throughout the university without getting approval of their flyers.

After public testimony ended, the committee members voted in unanimous support of the bill, sending it to the Senate floor for a final vote. There is a companion House version of this bill, House Bill 3395. It has not yet been sent to a committee.