Model legislation aims to help lawmakers protect free expression on college campuses
American Legislative Exchange Council created two pieces of model legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights.
These acts are available for politicians to utilize as templates and introduce into their respective state legislatures.
According to a study conducted by the Knight Foundation, a pro-free speech and pro-democracy organization, student dissatisfaction with the state of free expression at American institutions of higher education is growing. In 2021, for example, as many as 65% percent of college students felt that their campus climate was hostile to free speech.
To address this growing issue, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) created two pieces of model legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights. These Acts are available for politicians to utilize as templates and introduce into their respective state legislatures.
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According to their website, ALEC is America’s “[l]argest nonpartisan organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.”
On Dec. 23 of last year, ALEC finalized the Free Speech in Higher Education Act. This piece of model legislation would prohibit public universities or colleges from implementing “bias response teams.”
ALEC defines bias reporting systems as “formal or explicit processes for, or solicitation of, bias incidents from students, faculty, staff, or the community concerning 'offensive' or 'unwanted' speech, including satire or speech labeled as a 'microaggression,' regardless of whether such speech occurred on or off campus.”
Additionally, the Act would prohibit any public college or university from charging security fees for “[t]he content of the student or student organization’s expression," "[t]he content of an invited guest’s expression," or "[t]he anticipated reaction to an invited guest’s expression.”
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The Free Speech in Higher Education Act builds on a previous piece of model legislation finalized by ALEC in 2017 called "Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act."
The FORUM Act proposes eliminating free speech zones, requiring that students be educated regarding their free speech rights, holding universities accountable by requiring them to provide reports on free speech issues prior to funding allocation, and allowing victims "to bring a cause of action for violation of their free speech rights."
Campus Reform reached out to both Knight Foundation and ALEC. This article will be updated accordingly.