In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Education announced the creation of a new “Free Speech Hotline” that college students and professors could use to file complaints if their First Amendment rights were violated on campus.
One year later, the department is still withholding records detailing the nature of the complaints filed with the hotline.
On March 31, 2021, The College Fix filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department to see what types of complaints had been reported. Aside from being granted a waiver of the typical freedom of information act fees, The Fix has not heard back from the department regarding the request.
In April, a spokesperson for the department did confirm the hotline was still active.
“Under the previous administration, the Department established an email inbox to receive complaints regarding campus speech,” a spokesperson told The College Fix at the time. “At present, the Department’s new leadership is assessing this inbox and it remains online.”
But The College Fix heard nothing back from the March FOIA request, nor from a September 27 email sent asking for an update as to the status of the March request.
In December, a department spokesperson declined to comment on the status of the request, instead directing The Fix to the FOIA department, which had declined to respond to the September 27 email.
The request is currently listed on the department website as “processing.”
The hotline was created while Betsy DeVos, an appointee of President Donald Trump, served as Education Secretary. The current secretary is Miguel Cardona, appointed by President Joe Biden. An attempt by The College Fix to contact DeVos for comment was unsuccessful.
The impetus behind the hotline was a March 2019 executive order signed by Trump that would order institutions of higher education that receive federal research funds to enforce their free speech protections on campus. At the signing, Trump said he was taking “historic action to defend American students and American values that have been under siege.”
The department has also declined to divulge the number of complaints filed with the Free Speech Hotline. The address to report complaints is [email protected].
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