MN legislation takes on 'intellectual bullying' on campus
- A Republican state senator in Minnesota is proposing legislation to ensure that public colleges and universities adhere to their constitutional obligation to allow freedom of speech on campus.
- The bill would specifically forbid administrators from imposing restrictions on speech, "including ideas and opinions they find offensive," and would also outlaw so-called "free speech zones."
Minnesota State Senator Carla Nelson is introducing a bill that would prevent colleges and universities from limiting free expression on campus.
According to the Republican lawmaker, the “Campus Free Expression Act” is intended to protect the “critically important” free speech rights of students on campus while keeping them “involved and informed.”
“Free speech and freedom of the press are two great bulwarks for liberty,” Nelson said at a press conference last week. ”And that is why it is so critically important that we make sure that those freedoms are protected just as our Constitution mandates; both in our society and particularly on our campuses of higher learning.
“In fact, if we want students to be involved and informed, we must not limit the speech, the dialogue and the debate,” she continued, saying “that is what the bill that will be introduced…is all about.”
The state lawmaker also invited three students to her press conference, asking them to share their experiences of censorship on campus with the press.
Kyle Hooten, a Campus Reform correspondent who attends St. Olaf College, praised the legislative effort, arguing that “we are now seeing the potential for real legislative action in defense of free speech for college students in Minnesota which, if enacted, could prevent further situations like the one we see at the U of MN with Ben Shapiro.”
Madison Faupel, a senior at the University of Minnesota who is also a Campus Reform correspondent, likewise welcomed the bill, asserting that "stifling free speech on campus leads to an environment of bias, indoctrination, and intellectual bullying."
According to The Post Bulletin, the legislation will apply to state institutions of higher education to prevent them from shielding “individuals from free speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrongheaded."
If passed into law, the bill will also target so-called “free speech zones” that many see as unconstitutional restrictions on student expression, as well as ensure that students and faculty alike have the ability to invite guest speakers “regardless of [their] views.”
In a statement to Campus Reform, Nelson expressed optimism about the bill’s prospects, reiterating that institutions of higher education can not operate outside of the Constitution.
"I believe there should be no resistance to this bill," she said. "Institutions of higher education are not exempt from the provisions of the United States Constitution.
"We can't yet judge the degree of support for or opposition to the bill because it has not yet been formally introduced, but it will be on the first day of the legislative session,” she continued. "Step one for the bill is getting a hearing.”