College campuses are supposed to be places for free speech to celebrated, and while many find their voices in such communities, it is common for students with minority viewpoints to be silenced. Numerous incidents that have caused such controversy have inspired many states to adopt free speech legislature which would protect the voices of all on “federally funded institutions,” eliminating the need for “free speech zones.”
The “Campus Free Expression Act” has already been passed in twenty states, with Florida seeking to become the next to be a place where the First Amendment cannot be infringed upon. Filed by Florida Senator Dennis Baxley and Representative Bob Rommel last month, the sunshine state’s sudden interest in the bill appears to correlate to an event that occurred at the University of Florida when Richard Spencer was scheduled to speak. However, lawmakers are pointedly noting that it has been an issue of great importance for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and is not “drafted in response to any certain event.”
Richard Spencer is “the president of the National Policy Institute,” which studies the correlation between intelligence and crime across “Hispanic immigrants,” causing leftists such as the Southern Poverty Law Center to call him “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.” Spencer’s planned visit drew controversy from students who had planned to protest, welcoming him with the greeting “Go home, racist!”
The university feared that the protest would turn violent and tried to prevent Spencer’s visit. His lawyer, however, threatened to sue for attempted infringement upon freedom of speech, and the school was forced to permit it, however, the community was put on “high alert.” “Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County” and the National Guard was on call if violence broke out.
Although students were divided in their opinions on whether free speech should be honored or suspected racism combated, the president of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs expressed his opposition to Spencer speaking at the university. In a YouTube video, he encouraged students to boycott the event which he said would preach a “message of hate,” thus giving Spencer no audience to address.
However, Spencer did have an audience to address, despite the fact that those against his message were very vocal, shouting things such as “Say it loud! Say it clear! Nazis are not welcome here!” Spencer’s speech turned into him addressing the crowd asking if they truly believed their actions would be considered a victory and if they wanted to turn their community into a “stifling place” by preventing free speech as they were successfully doing to Spencer.
Florida Senate Bill 1234, if passed, would rid campuses of “free speech zones,” which imply that the rest of a campus is not by “cordoning people off into little squares,” says Baxley. He expresses concern that institutions such as universities are breeding a society which is pressured into being ultra-politically correct to fit the norm, or else be silenced. Under the act, those violating another’s right to speech would be fined $100,000 for their first offense; this included any act which “disrupted a scheduled campus event.”
Attorney Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation takes First Amendment and civil rights cases seriously and has pointed out the similarities between free speech attitudes on college campuses and “views towards speech that the Soviet Union had towards dissenters from their communist ideology,” which was any idea that strayed from the majority’s view.
Spakovsky emphasized the necessity to discourage such mentalities before college students enter the world outside of their schools with free speech zones. If such individuals entered into politics, America’s speech would be threatened by further legislation which would slowly take away citizens’ First Amendment rights.
Consideration for SB 1234 will begin on January 9, and if passed, will go into effect on July 1. It is likely to, as liberal states such as California, Washington, and New York have proposed the bill to protect students with minority views from being quieted. There were far too many incidents in 2017 ending in lawsuits which tried to prevent conservative students from expressing their beliefs, including the Miami University of Ohio trying to require a pro-life display come with a “trigger warning” and a Christian group being banned from the University of Iowa campus.
The continued silencing of conservative voice in the media and on college campuses will eventually cause all 50 states to pass laws which protect even conservative viewpoints, regardless of popularity. It is, however, sad that it has come to such a point that Senate bills are being required just to uphold the Constitution, which should stand strong on its own.
The way the media permits liberal opinions to be heard, no matter how ridiculous, but automatically labels conservative points exclusive, it is no wonder that the culture bred on academic institutions has become almost entirely left-leaning. While it is obnoxious that such laws are required, they are the least fighting to preserve the protected right even where it is often attacked.