Arizona campus free speech bill unlike anything we've seen before

HB 2238 is designed to hold public universities in Arizona accountable for more discussions on campuses.

Bill would require Arizona Board of Regents to establish Public Policy Offices at every university under the board’s jurisdiction.

A bill currently making its way through the Arizona legislature aims to promote free speech on campus. 

Republican state Rep. Anthony Kern sponsored the bill, which would direct the Arizona Board of Regents to create an Office of Public Policy Events at each one of Arizona's public universities to "organize, publicize, and stage debates, group forums, and individual lectures that address, from multiple divergent and opposing perspectives, an extensive range of public policy issues that are widely discussed and debated in society at large." 

The legislation stipulates that universities "invite speakers who hold widely diverse perspectives from within and outside the university," and "if necessary, provide honoraria and travel and lodging expenses to persons from outside the university." 

[RELATED: Arizona bans colleges from restricting student speech]

HB 2238 passed the House in late February and is currently being debated in the Arizona state senate. 

In addition to offering a wide range of perspectives, the bill would also require that universities maintain publicly accessible and searchable lists of each event hosted by the Office of Public Policy Events. Starting in September 2021, the calendar would go to the governor and lawmakers. The legislation would also require universities to record each event and post videos of every debate online. 

Speech First President Nicole Neily reacted to the legislation in a statement to Campus Reform, saying, “Rep. Kern’s proposal is provocative, and I appreciate that he’s shining a light on an underreported problem in American higher education.”

[RELATED: State lawmakers unanimously pass free speech bill. Professors oppose the effort.]

Kern is no stranger to free speech legislation. In 2016, he sponsored a bill that effectively banned "free speech zones" on Arizona campuses.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed that bill into law, as Campus Reform reported at the time. 

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