Pennsylvania Senators Propose Legislation to Combat Hate Speech on College Campuses

Senator Art HaywoodImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

PENNSYLVANIA — In a move aimed at fostering a more inclusive environment in higher education institutions, Pennsylvania Senator Art Haywood (D-4) has announced forthcoming legislation designed to counteract hate speech on campuses within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). He was joined Tuesday by Senator Costa (D-43), Senator Schwank (D-11), and Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, the Executive Director of the PA Human Rights Commission.

The proposed bill amends the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act to recognize racial harassment as an unfair educational practice. This amendment gives the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) authority over post-secondary institutions in matters related to campus-based harassment. The legislation broadly defines harassment, covering acts that provoke fear, shame, or discomfort based on race, religion, or national origin.

Senator Haywood’s announcement follows the conclusion of his ENOUGH Tour, a 3,000-mile journey across the Commonwealth. During the tour, Senator Haywood and Director Lassiter interacted with students from PASSHE schools and heard shocking testimonies about harassment and hate-based incidents.

“The prevalence of harassment and hate-based incidents is not exclusive to PASSHE schools,” stated Senator Haywood. “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.”

Democratic Minority Leader Senator Costa (D-43) echoed these sentiments, highlighting the importance of tackling hate crimes and ensuring a harassment-free education for all students. Senator Judy Schwank (D-11) also expressed her support for the new legislation, emphasizing that colleges and universities should be safe havens for all students.

The introduction of this legislation sends a strong message against hate and intolerance, empowering the PHRC to safeguard educational environments. The legislation, expected to be introduced in the coming weeks, represents a significant step towards creating a more inclusive atmosphere within Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions. The full ENOUGH Report, detailing the findings of Senator Haywood’s tour, is slated for publication in early 2024.

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