Heritage promotes bill to protect free speech on campus

The Heritage Foundation held a panel Tuesday to discuss newly proposed model legislation that would bring free speech back to college campuses.

Campus Free Speech: A Legislative Proposal” was hosted by Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, who was joined by a discussion panel featuring Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center; Jim Manley, a senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center; Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute; and Casey Mattox, senior counsel and director of the Center for Academic Freedom at the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The model legislation, crafted collaboratively by Kurtz and the Goldwater Institute, is based on three statements on free expression that have served as a model for promoting speech on campus: Yale University’s Woodward Report, and the Kalven and Stone Reports from the University of Chicago.

[RELATED: Judge fears Yale has forgotten commitment to free expression]

While the proposal would require state university systems to adopt an official policy statement that both guarantees free expression and explains its value along the lines of the Yale and UC statements, it also carves out narrow exceptions, allowing administrators to “establish reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of student expression, while also preventing the abuse of such power.”

For instance, the legislation “establishes the right to protest or demonstrate on campus, while also making it clear that infringement of the expressive rights of others is prohibited and subject to sanction,” and also demands that the same rationale apply to invited speakers.

In addition, the proposal would outlaw the practice of establishing restrictive “free speech zones” that limit expression to “narrow and approved” areas of campus, basing its language on a law passed last year in Arizona that was crafted in part by the Goldwater Institute.

[RELATED: Arizona considering bill to ban ‘free speech zones’ on college campuses]

Those who violate the free speech rights of others would face sanctions under the bill, but would also be guaranteed robust due process protections, including the right to counsel and timely notice of the charges against them.

Administrators would be given some leeway to determine the appropriate punishment in a given case, but any student who has twice been found guilty of violating the expressive rights of others would have to be suspended for at least one year, or else expelled.

There are currently no provisions for disciplining faculty members who are found guilty of the same types of violations, but Manley expressed optimism that universities would voluntarily expand on the root concepts outlined in the legislation.

“In the same way that the bill doesn’t apply to private universities, but we hope that it will encourage private universities to take a more protective approach to speech, I think that the disciplinary provisions that are set out for students could be adopted and could inform the administration’s approach to faculty discipline as well,” he told Campus Reform.

[RELATED: Berkeley riots lay bare liberal hypocrisy on free speech]

“We’ve had campus demonstrations since the 1960s that were not properly respectful of freedom of speech, so you could say that there’s nothing new here, but I do think that there is good evidence for believing that respect for free-speech has declined in the last few years even beyond what it has been,” Kurtz told Campus Reform. “We know this from various surveys and of course the rise of things like ‘microaggressions,’ ‘safe-spaces,’ and ‘trigger-warnings.’ They all indicate to me a generation that has been educated by left-leaning professors who weren’t fans of free speech themselves.”

He went on to explain that many of the professors who are pushing these far-left ideologies were themselves “the 60s demonstrators” that he had referenced.

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