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Free Speech on Campus Proposed for Legislation
Free Speech on Campus Proposed for Legislation

Free Speech on Campus: Proposed for Legislation

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It’s already a common occurrence for provocative speakers to attract violent reactions from their audience. In fact, some say that it has already become a pattern.

Are you familiar with this scenario? — A speaker gets invited to deliver a speech, often from a conservative student group. Some of the students on the other hand react and oppose the speaker, even protesting to a certain extent. If they do not get their way, they try to heckle the speaker. Some of these events end up in violence. To prevent further damage, some choose to just cancel the event just as what happened with conservative commentator Ann Coulter at the University of California, Berkeley just recently.

Some states that include Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, and Colorado are now noticing this trend. They have passed or introduced a legislation to help prevent such incidents from ever happening again. The bills differ from one state to another but they are generally based from a model from the Goldwater Institute, which is a libertarian think tank that is located in Arizona.

The model bill would necessitate the public universities to be neutral to issues that pertain to politics, stop them from disinviting speakers, and require them to let students pay for penalties if they interfere with speakers.

According to Attorney Jim Manley who is a co-author of the bill, the neutrality provision will serve as a reminder to the public universities that their funds come from taxpayers, the same people who are being forced to subsidize their speech because some students disagree with them. Manley also commented that protests coming from the students is a reflection that universities are not properly disciplining their students. He thinks that this is crucial because they have seen how students participated in hostile protests that were not designed to present another viewpoint, but were only intended to shut down the speaker.

Manly is supported by Peter Berkowitz, a professor from Stanford University. Berkowitz said in a Wall Street Journal column that universities do not immediately respond to these protests because they just want to protect minority groups that were ticked off by the speaker.

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