EXCLUSIVE: SD Board of Regents passes substantial free speech protections

State public schools will no longer be able to discriminate against “any student or student organization” based on viewpoint or ideology.

South Dakota's Board of Regents has passed changes to policies dealing with free speech on campus.

The South Dakota Board of Regents approved modifications to a group of policies at a Wednesday and Thursday meeting that substantially protects free speech on campus by eliminating free speech zones, banning ideological discrimination, and more.

Among the policy changes, public universities in South Dakota will no longer be able to discriminate against “any student or student organization” based on viewpoint or ideology. Student organizations will also be able to require members to “affirm and adhere to the organization’s sincerely held beliefs.”

A South Dakota Board of Regents spokeswoman told Campus Reform that the board approved all three free speech policies.

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Funding for student organizations, under these policies, would be required to be given out in a “nondiscriminatory manner.”

Another part of the passed policies mandates that public universities in South Dakota provide a report to the BOR executive director on the state of free speech on campus, including steps universities are taking to “promote and ensure intellectual diversity.”

The report also has to include if any events on campus “impeded intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.”

“The ideas of different members of the institutions’ community will often and quite naturally conflict, and some individuals’ ideas will even conflict with the institutions’ values and principles,” the policy reads. “But it is not the proper role of the Board or the institutions to attempt to shield individuals from viewpoints they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

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Additionally, the policies will effectively eliminate free speech zones, as the “outdoor areas” of the public universities are made a “public forum.”

This set of passed policies cements the work done by the South Dakota legislature in passing HB1087, which was meant to promote free speech and intellectual diversity on college campuses.

The bill was passed amid the University of South Dakota allegedly telling a student organization that a “Hawaiian Day” party was not inclusive, as Campus Reform previously reported.

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