Harrisburg, PA – December 12, 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. This legislation serves as a proactive response to safeguard educational environments. Empowering the PHRC sends a strong message that the state stands united against hate and intolerance, fostering a more inclusive atmosphere within Pennsylvania’s higher education institutions.
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.”
Democratic Minority Leader Senator Costa (D-43) adds, “We find ourselves in a tense political moment and are witnessing an unprecedented rise in hate crimes across the board, making all of us less safe. I am so grateful for the work of Senator Haywood, who is taking real steps to make sure all students can receive an excellent education free from harassment. I hope we pass both his legislation and the package of anti-hate crime bills championed by Representatives Dan Frankel and Napoleon Nelson. The time to put our differences aside and take action on hate crimes is now.”
Senator Judy Schwank (D-11), also in attendance, says, “Colleges and universities are meant to be safe havens where students from all walks of life come together to make friends, grow as individuals, discover their interests, and build the skills they need to earn fulfilling careers. That’s not possible when hate speech and harassment persist on campus. I’m proud to support legislation introduced by Sen. Haywood that will help ensure every student at our state-owned universities has access to the educational environment they rightfully deserve.”
“This very moment that we find ourselves in is a tipping point with regards to microaggressions, hate, and racism on college campuses,” said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. “Senator Haywood and I have traveled to all the schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to talk about racism and hate on campus. We didn’t hear just pain and hurt. We heard anguish. We heard students grappling with hate in the classroom, on campus, and in the surrounding town. Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth and the nation need to do a better job in providing racial protection- primarily for black and brown students, but also for all students, no matter their sexual orientation, religion, gender, or race. We’re all part of the human family, and I stand with Senator Haywood and others today, denouncing all hate in the Commonwealth.”
Senator Haywood’s legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks.
The full ENOUGH Report will be published early in 2024.