13 December 2023- In a press conference held today, Senator Art Haywood (D-4) unveiled forthcoming legislation to combat hate speech on campuses within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Senator Haywood was joined by Senator Costa (D-43), Senator Schwank (D-11), and Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, the Executive Director of the PA Human Relations Commission (PHRC). The proposed legislation seeks to address and counteract instances of hateful rhetoric within PASSHE institutions.
The proposed legislation amends the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act to include racial harassment as an unfair educational practice, granting PHRC authority over postsecondary institutions for campus-based harassment. It defines harassment broadly, covering various acts causing fear, shame, or discomfort based on race, religion, or national origin.
The introduction of this legislation comes on the heels of the culmination of Senator Haywood’s ENOUGH Tour- a three-thousand-mile endeavor in which Sen. Haywood, joined by Director Chad Lassiter, connected with students at PASSHE schools across the Commonwealth. Senator Haywood and Director Lassiter were deeply disturbed by the shocking student testimony they were presented with.
“The prevalence of harassment and hate-based incidents is not exclusive to PASSHE schools,” says Senator Haywood. “In fact, PASSHE should be acknowledged for their efforts in trying to correct this issue. I am calling all college presidents- private, state, and state-related to fix their codes of conduct. Our institutions should serve as a place where students from diverse backgrounds come together to learn, grow, and prepare for the challenges of the future.
Senator Haywood continues, “Freedom of speech should not come at the high cost of emotional trauma, especially for our students. For far too long, we have protected the hater while leaving the victims of hate isolated and unprotected. This legislation allows us to address harassment head-on and sends a clear message to all our colleges and universities to stand united against hate and intolerance.”
This comes a week after State Senator Doug Mastriano announced his own bill specifically targeting antisemitism on college campuses. Mastriano additionally called for the now-former president of the University of Pennsylvania, which does receive state funding even though it is a private school, Liz McGill to be removed from her position due to her lack-luster congressional testimony and failure to denounce significant instances of antisemitism on the campus.
Both Mastriano and Haywood’s bills have yet to be formally introduced into either committee or the full Senate. The lawmakers are circulating draft legislation in an effort to drum up support and cosponsors to their respective legislation.