Request briefing from Department of Education to understand how college campuses are ensuring free thought and expression
WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Committee on Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing serious concerns over reports indicating colleges and universities are actively undermining free speech and academic freedom on their campuses. The Republican lawmakers note that the federal government provides U.S. academic institutions billions in taxpayer-funded grants yearly and are requesting an immediate briefing to fully understand what actions, if any, the Department is taking to foster an educational environment of tolerance and respect for all opinions.
“We are conducting oversight over the U.S. Department of Education’s (the Department) administration of taxpayers’ dollars awarded to public and private colleges and universities under various federal programs. Specifically, we are concerned many of these colleges and universities are undermining free speech and academic freedom on their campuses. Despite this problem, the Department does not seem to be engaged in promoting the free exchange of ideas within our colleges and universities. In fact, we were troubled to hear that the Department did not extend the free speech hotline first established by the past administration which was intended to be a resource to report potential free speech violations. We request a briefing to understand better what actions, if any, the Department is taking to promote free speech and academic freedom on college campuses,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
Each year, American taxpayers provide a significant investment in U.S. public and private institutions. In 2019, Yale University received approximately $620 million, Harvard University received approximately $1.1 billion, University of Pennsylvania received approximately $830 million, Georgetown University received approximately $370 million, and University of Southern California received approximately $1.1 billion. Public schools also receive substantial federal funding. For this reason, institutions of higher learning should be havens of open debate and dialogue.
“College students are increasingly concerned about their ability to freely express their opinions and ideas on their campuses,” continued the Republican lawmakers. “The proliferation of cancel culture in American higher education threatens the ability of students and faculty to push themselves past their academic limits. The Department should be signaling to these institutions that academic freedom is paramount for the success of students, faculty, and society, and should help them see that limiting free speech is counter to the intellectual goals of academia.”
Read the letter here.