Texas A&M University Introduces First Amendment Website
Texas A&M University published a new First Amendment website this month as part of an ongoing effort to emphasize the importance of First Amendment rights on campus under the U.S. Constitution.
- Links to information from the Freedom Forum Institute on each of the five First Amendment freedoms
- Details on Texas Senate Bill 18, passed in 2019, which addresses the importance of free expression on campus
- A link to a new university rule, approved in May, on campus expressive activity
- How to file a grievance related to the First Amendment on campus
- A list of resources related to the First Amendment and expressive activity on campus
- A series of six free speech orientation videos created by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
- Texas A&M news stories related to the First Amendment
- An FAQ page
“We created this resource primarily for Texas A&M students to learn more about their First Amendment rights and resources on campus and to serve and involve our faculty and staff,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Daniel J. Pugh Sr. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said that ‘students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate.’ It is our responsibility as a public institution of higher education to safeguard these rights for all students, faculty and staff.”
Expressive Activity Spotlight
The new website spotlights expressive activity on campus. The free expression of ideas and the right to associate are American values fiercely protected by the Supreme Court. The First Amendment right to free expression and association at public universities such as Texas A&M has been explored in classic case law as a result of court cases related to the student unrest of the 1960s. These constitutional issues are sometimes difficult for the general public to comprehend because there is often an expectation that university administrators can control student speech and control or prevent student association.
This public perception is often grounded in the false belief that students do not have constitutional rights or that they do not enjoy these rights in their roles as college students. Nothing could be further from the truth at public institutions.
Free expression rights are not absolute on campus: Reasonable time, place and manner restrictions apply to free speech and student protest issues when there is a compelling government interest to support their strategies to balance these student rights against the right of others to attend class, move about campus and to avoid disruptions.
Content on the new website will be managed by Texas A&M’s Expressive Activity Committee, a group of 22 staff members that represents several units across the university including the Office of General Counsel, University Police, the College of Medicine, the Office for Diversity, the Division of Marketing and Communications, and the Division of Student Affairs.
Texas A&M’s FIRE Green Light Rating
Texas A&M is the first and only university in the state to earn the highest rating for free speech from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In cooperation with FIRE, Texas A&M revised a number of speech codes last year to join an elite group of only 45 universities nationwide that have written policies fully in line with the First Amendment. It was then that Texas A&M University President Michael Young said, “As one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher learning, it is critical that Texas A&M affirms our commitment to free speech. A free exchange of ideas is not only a cornerstone of our democracy, it is the surest path to truth, discovery and scholarly advancement.”