Feb. 09, 2023

HARRISBURG – The formative college years are supposed to be a time to hear and consider differing viewpoints and to forge one’s ideals and worldview in an environment that’s friendly to free speech and expression. This fact is why Rep. Joe D’Orsie (R-Manchester) plans to introduce legislation to protect free speech on college campuses in Pennsylvania.

“Our colleges and institutions of higher learning should be greenhouses for free speech and divergent views, not systems that favor one particular perspective and shut out dissenting voices,” D’Orsie said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen all too much of the latter through various speech-quelling practices.’”

Over the course of the past 35 years, schools across the country have instituted speech-checking mechanisms called “bias response teams,” which enables anonymous reporting of otherwise protected free speech and threatens to quash speech and dissenting viewpoints as a result. This practice, more often than not, tends to target conservative expression.

Once the House finally organizes, D’Orsie will introduce legislation to prohibit Pennsylvania’s public institutions of higher education from utilizing bias response teams. The bill would also bar them from assessing unreasonably high security fees for guest speakers on campus and create a private cause-of-action for those aggrieved by a violation of the bill’s provisions.

Of late, several colleges in the nation have scaled back bias response teams under the threat of lawsuits. This goes to show the already legal and moral issues of limiting free speech, D’Orsie noted.

“With this issue in the forefront, I’m poised to introduce my Free Speech in Higher Education Bill this session, which will prevent universities from cancelling speakers and suppressing speech and expression that doesn’t align with the academic status quo,” D’Orsie said.

Representative Joe D’Orsie
47th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Greg Gross