Last week, a member of a “radical leftist collective” at West Virginia University was caught on film shoving a member of Turning Point USA, a free market student group. According to MetroNews, Turning Point wanted to “discuss a joint forum,” but Turning Point’s members left after their overtures were poorly received. A shoving match ensued in the hallway.
Appropriate? No. Familiar? Yes. Unfortunately, this episode is yet another example of why free speech needs to be protected, especially on college campuses. In 2015, it was a Missouri professor calling for “muscle” to prevent the recording of a protest. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was protestors at Yale blocking high-profile speakers from lecturing on campus. And on and on.
To prevent history from repeating itself (again), the Goldwater Institute partnered with Stanley Kurtz from the Ethics and Public Policy Center to give state lawmakers and university leaders clear, comprehensive ideas for protecting free expression on campus.
The model legislation and white paper include the following provisions:
- Requires universities to design a policy affirming the importance of free expression;
- Prevents university leadership from disinviting speakers whom members of the campus community want to hear from;
- Establishes rules against individuals that try to disrupt campus events, including consequences and an appeals process;
- Calls on universities to be neutral on controversial issues and encourage dialogue;
- Creates a subcommittee of university leadership that is directed to report on the condition of free speech each year.
The bill draws on the experiences documented in Yale’s seminal Woodward Report (the result of the aforementioned conflicts in the ‘60s and ‘70s) and the University of Chicago’s key statements through the years in favor of free speech . Furthermore, Arizona lawmakers have already adopted legislation that prevents the creation of “free speech zones,” the ivory tower’s latest misnomer. The new model bill capitalizes on this policy and goes beyond these provisions to create a campus culture of respect for ideas.
Across the country, this legislation is needed to match pressure from university administrators to limit what students can say and where they say it. These limitations have restricted the free exchange of ideas on campus for decades. History needs to stop repeating itself.