Blackburn, Cotton start Senate Campus Free Speech Caucus, following launch of companion House group

Caucus start coincides with introduction of Cotton's Campus Free Speech Restoration Act, Blackburn's Campus Free Speech Resolution

Updated: October 20, 2021 - 3:36pm

GOP Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton are starting a Senate Campus Free Speech Caucus, following the successful launch in June of a companion House group.  

Blackburn, of Tennessee, and Cotton, of Arkansas, are longtime supporters of the Young America's Foundation, which introduces students and student activists to conservative ideas through conferences, speakers, campus lectures and initiatives.

"Free speech is under attack on college campuses,” Blackburn said Wednesday in announcing the start of the caucus. "We must fight to ensure that our students are not silenced. The Campus Free Speech Caucus I am leading alongside Senator Cotton, our colleagues, and friends at YAF will champion this essential freedom for students in Tennessee and across the nation."

Founding members of the new caucus include fellow GOP Sens. Mike Braun, of Indiana, Steve Daines, of Montana, John Boozman, of Arizona, and Roger Marshall, of Kansas.

Members say their mission is to "drive legislation supporting students' First Amendment rights and educate other legislators about the clear bias against free speech on campuses across the country," according to their announcement.

The start of the cause will coincide with the introduction in the Senate of Cotton's Campus Free Speech Restoration Act and Blackburn's Campus Free Speech Resolution of 2021.

The House caucus is led by Reps. Jim Jordan, of Ohio, and Kat Cammack, of Florida.

A 2019 poll conducted by Young America's Foundation found 46% of students stopped themselves from sharing their ideas and beliefs in the classroom citing their unwelcoming campus environments. And a 2020 Knight Foundation/Gallup Poll found 81% support a campus environment in which students are exposed to all types of speech, even if they may find it offensive, the release also states.

"Universities should encourage a variety of viewpoints," Cotton said. "But today, colleges and students often silence classmates and faculty who disagree with ideas like Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. Senator Blackburn and I started The Campus Free Speech Caucus to return free speech to higher education across the country."