ON-Lion Letter
An "anti-bullying" bill introduced in Congress in November gravely threatens free speech on America's college campuses.  Despite the bill's admirable intention of preventing future tragedies, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in Philadelphia has determined that the bill is at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court's carefully crafted definition of harassment and would require colleges to violate the First Amendment.

"Tyler Clementi was subjected to an unconscionable violation of privacy, but that conduct was already criminal and prohibited by every college in America," according to FIRE president Greg Lukianoff.  "For decades, colleges have used vague, broad harassment codes to silence even the most innocuous speech on campus.  The proposed law requires universities to police even more student speech under a hopelessly vague standard that will be a disaster for open debate and discourse on campus.  And all this in response to student behavior that was already illegal."

Clementi's roommate secretly filmed him during a sexual encounter in their Rutgers University dorm room and posted it live on the Internet.  Clementi later took his own life.

After Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rush Holt introduced the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act," Senator Lautenberg declared that "it is time for our colleges to put policies on the books that would protect students from harassment."  But such policies are already in place.  For decades, colleges that receive federal funding have been required to maintain policies that address discriminatory harassment under Titles VI and IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The bill, which would amend the Higher Education Act, flies in the face of that very law.  When Congress reauthorized the Act in 2008, it added a "sense of Congress" provision noting that "an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports FIRE.
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