Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced legislation (A5731) that would require public institutions of higher education to adopt policies protecting freedom of expression.
“Any effort to censor philosophies that might differ from ours is in direct violation of our Constitution,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “College campuses should be a place where students feel safe to express their views and invite speakers from all backgrounds and beliefs because we cannot start putting limits on free speech.”
In recent years, colleges around the nation have revoked speaking invitations, designated free speech zones, restricted literature distribution, and bowed to pressure to inhibit freedom of expression. Dancer’s bill aims to counter efforts to stifle free speech at college campuses.
“It’s important to be able to exchange ideas without the threat of suppression. Even when we disagree and maybe most importantly when we disagree, we need to defend freedom of expression for everyone,” said Dancer.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union recommends college administrators “vigilantly defend the equal rights of all speakers and all ideas to be heard, and promote a climate of robust and uninhibited dialogue and debate open to all views, no matter how controversial.”
Dancer’s bill would call on public colleges to create policies that would welcome all forms of protected speech including verbal communications, hanging posters, protesting and circulating petitions. Outdoor areas of the institution’s campus would be considered a public forum for members of the campus community and invited guests. Those who block a person or group’s freedom of speech would be subject to discipline.
Additionally, the bill would require each public institution of higher education to appoint an independent committee on free expression and submit a report to the governor and Legislature detailing the institution’s steps towards implementing freedom of expression policies.
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee.