By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
Florida State Representative Bob Rommel (R-Collier) has introduced legislation to protect and defend free speech rights on Florida’s public college campuses. The Campus Free Expression Act (HB-909) would increase free speech on Florida campuses by ending so-called “free speech zones” that actually restrict students from exercising their constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights. Free speech zones, speech codes, so-called inclusion, and safe spaces are in place at most of American colleges and universities. Each of these are, in fact, assault on American First Amendment Rights. They are also an insult to the America college tradition of freedom of expression.
Generation Opportunity (GO) Executive Director Carrie Sheffield issued the following statement:
“So-called free speech zones actually harm free speech and free expression on college campuses by restricting where students can exercise their First Amendment rights. Instead of limiting free speech, colleges and universities should be encouraging students to speak freely, exchange different ideas, and learn from each other. We applaud Rep. Rommel for introducing this important legislation and urge his colleagues to follow in support.”
GO has launched a campaign urging young Americans to contact Rep. Rommel and support his efforts to protect free speech on college campuses. The group put together a digital tool allowing users to connect directly with his office.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), nearly one in six universities maintain free speech zones – a space designed to limit your ability to hold “rallies, demonstrations, distribute literature, circulate petitions and give speeches.” Permission is usually required to use these “speech zones,” and applications must be approved by the university days or even weeks in advance. GO believes the entire college campus should be a free speech zone, not just one area.
A recent Brookings Institute Study found one in five college students surveyed said using violence against a speaker known for making offensive statements was acceptable. GO has been outspoken about the need for policies that will allow college campuses to remain a place where students and faculty are free to express their ideas and opinions.
HB 909 contains several penalties than can be applied against colleges that repress free speech:
- 3) CAUSE OF ACTION; DAMAGES.—
- 65 (a) The Attorney General or a person whose expressive
- 66 rights are violated by an action prohibited under this section
- 67 may bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction to
- 68 recover compensatory damages, reasonable court costs, and
- 69 attorney fees.
- 70 (b) If the court finds that a violation of this section
- 71 occurred, the court shall award the aggrieved party a minimum of
- 72 $500 for the initial violation plus an additional $50 for each
- 73 day the violation remains ongoing starting the day after the
- 74 date the complaint is served on the public institution of higher learning
State colleges are taxpayer funded, and there is no reason taxpayer dollars should be used to repress student’s rights under the First Amendment.