At their meeting yesterday, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a new policy section establishing the Oklahoma Free Speech Committee. Formation of the new committee reflects provisions of House Bill 3543, authored by Rep. Chad Caldwell, which was signed into law during the 2022 regular legislative session and becomes effective Nov. 1.

Statutorily defined duties of the State Regents’ Free Speech Committee include reviewing state system institutions’ free speech policies, reviewing complaints of free speech violations, examining free speech training employed at individual institutions, and developing or identifying a free speech training to be required for college deans, department heads, and campus personnel responsible for creating free speech policies or handling free speech complaints.

“Oklahoma’s state system institutions embrace the First Amendment and recognize the importance of free speech, as reflected in myriad viewpoints shared through academic discourse on campuses across the state,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The new Free Speech Committee will create a process that ensures our institutions continue to be places where the open exchange of ideas and perspectives is encouraged and protected.”

State Regents’ chair Michael C. Turpen has appointed the following individuals to serve on the Free Speech Committee:

  • Andy Lester, attorney/partner, Spencer Fane LLP (Committee Chair)
  • Chad Caldwell, Oklahoma House of Representatives, District 40
  • Valerie Couch, Professor/Dean Emeritus, Oklahoma City University School of Law
  • Kay Floyd, Oklahoma State Senate, District 45
  • Dr. Raul Font, President, Latino Community Development Agency
  • Dr. Rick Hall, adjunct faculty member, University of Oklahoma
  • Mariana Pitts, attorney, Stump & Associates
  • Tesia Zientek, Education Director, Citizen Pottawatomi Nation
  • Standing State Regent, as appointed by the chair

“The State Regents are committed to free and open inquiry,” said Turpen. “Our public colleges and universities provide students the broadest possible opportunities to be heard, to listen to others, and to learn.”