After the latest election cycle, tensions between the different ends of the political spectrum have reached all-time highs. Universities have been focal points of these tensions. College administrators have struggled to find a way to maintain control over their campuses while allowing students to express themselves, and often, the First Amendment rights of students are sacrificed in the bargain. One state’s lawmakers have introduced legislation which would eliminate restrictions on where and when students are permitted to express their views.
Colorado state senators are currently considering a bill which would eliminate so-called “free speech zones” from being established on campuses of public colleges and universities. Specifically, the bill provides: “a public institution shall not designate any area on campus as a free speech zone or otherwise create policies that imply that its students’ expressive activities are restricted to a particular area of campus.” The bill is in line with the expansion of free speech protections being advocated by such free speech advocacy groups as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Young Americans for Liberty.
Colorado State Senate Bill 62 would allow students who feel that their constitutional free speech rights have been violated to turn to the courts for assistance in having their rights upheld. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Neville, stated, “The rise of so-called ‘Free Speech’ or ‘Safe Space’ zones spreads the incorrect idea that our students should limit their speech to confined areas — often out of sight of the public or their peers.” Neville noted that the exchange of ideas is “critical to our public higher education institutions’ mission as a place of learning and a marketplace of ideas.” Neville described comments he had received from free speech activists and political groups bemoaning the limits placed on college students’ right to speak out on campus. Namely, the groups describe how those with unpopular beliefs are shunted off to “free speech” zones so that other students are not exposed to their views.
The bill would only apply to the types of speech protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. In other words, speech that is deemed lewd or intended to incite violence (i.e., pornography or hate speech) will still be subject to restriction. So far, the bill has passed the education committee of the legislative body, and has garnered bipartisan support.
If you are a college student in Virginia and have had your rights under the US Constitution threatened, or you are facing a hearing before your campus disciplinary board, make sure that your rights are represented and protected by contacting the dedicated and aggressive Charlottesville college campus defense attorneys St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana at 434-296-7138.