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Growing number of state laws are passed or introduced focusing on campus free speech


The battle for free speech on college campuses across the country is becoming more prevalent in state legislatures, with many groups fighting back against the suppression of conservative speech.

Thur far, there have been eight enacting laws on the issue with more than a dozen others considering legal measures aimed at ensuring First Amendment rights on colleges and universities are protected regardless of political views.

According to Fox News, state legislators in Florida, Nebraska and Texas have already introduced bills on protecting campus free speech, and 10 other states are considering their own measures to ensure all students are afforded their Constitutional rights.

Republicans are the main force behind this push because they are quite often subjected to unfair and perhaps illegal treatment when they carry out the same actions as liberal groups on campuses.

Whether it is hanging fliers, inviting a speaker to campus, or student organizations taking a social or political stand on an issue, conservatives have disproportionately been censored and had their efforts curtailed.

While states like Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Wisconsin, have already enacted campus free speech laws — some argue the fight needs to go much further.

Harmeet K. Dhillon tells Media Equalizer that she believes there’s a positive trend of courts protecting student rights, which in turn will pressure universities to avoid litigation with taxpayer dollars.

As a Partner at Dhillon Law Group, she said a substantial part of her legal work involves the First Amendment. When asked whether she believes conservative groups taking legal actions against colleges who suppress their First Amendment rights, Dhillon said the law ia very straightforward on this issue.

“I’m encouraged to see that free speech groups around the country are filing suit to support the rights of student groups whose speech is being taxed, censored, and suppressed out of existence by intolerant liberal administrators.

Lawsuits are a last resort, and are expensive, so for every lawsuit you see being filed, you should assume that there are nine other disputes in various phases of negotiation, or student groups that have given up, self-censored, or taken their speech off campus as a result of these unlawful restrictions.”

Dhillon argues the Supreme Court has provided the lower courts with extensive guidance on handling First Amendment cases, and she believes we are seeing a trend of courts ruling in favor of protecting student’s rights.

When asked about her efforts to challenge double standards on campuses and what she hopes to see going forward, Dhillon believes conservative groups have a good chance in the courts and state legislatures.

“The First Amendment and the jurisprudence developed under it are very clear: it is illegal for a public institution to engage in viewpoint discrimination even in places where access is restricted in some ways, meaning they cannot allow liberal speech on a topic where they bar conservatives from speaking on the same issue.

In many public venues in our public universities, administrators may not censor the content of speech or provide access to certain groups but not others; in these circumstances, any government regulation must be content-neutral and cannot use vague concepts such as barring “hate speech” to differentiate between speakers.

Ultimately, through the lawsuits at various phases throughout the nation, we do expect to end up in a place where the most obvious restrictions on student speech are eliminated. However, remember that most of our higher education administrators and professors are very liberal as well, and we hear of students self-censoring in the classroom or being marked down for these views. This discrimination is more subtle, and remains a major problem that has yet to be effectively addressed in the courts or otherwise.”

Republicans are introducing laws because they’re the ones whose views are being suppressed on campuses across the country, and Dhillon asserts fighting this out in court and through state legislatures could result in very positive outcomes for conservatives.

Many would like to see conservatives treated equally to their liberal counterparts. As reasonable and rational as that sounds, it hasn’t always been the case. When conservative groups want to schedule a high-profile speaker like Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro, the university typically claims they can’t provide security or they don’t have enough space to hold the event.

As such, the conservative group on campus and/or the speaker is forced to foot the massive bill to provide security measures and secure an area to host the event. This is a ploy by colleges and universities to sway conservative speakers away from speaking on their campuses — and it clearly tramples on individual’s First Amendment rights.

Working toward finding a solution to this major issue, a Florida bill approved by the Senate Education Committee bans free speech zones on campuses. It also allows for cases in which a speaker or group can sue the institution up to $100,000 in damages if the First Amendment rights of a speaker or protester are “willfully” violated.

This is directly in concert with Dhillon’s rationale in that the law it very clear on free speech. More importantly, many argue the threat of being hit with a bruising lawsuit will curtail universities and colleges from prohibiting conservative speech.

Just about everyone can see this is an important issue, and everyone should agree with affirming the necessity of free speech.