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War on Free Speech: NC passes bill to protect the first amendment on campuses

Valentina Petrova/AP

This week, North Carolina legislators took action addressing the war on free speech by passing the Restore Campus Free Speech Act.

This legislation would eliminate speech codes on campus and sanction those who violate other students’ freedom of speech. The fight for freedom of expression on college campuses has been receiving national attention after many conservative speeches across the country have been canceled or violently protested.

The House and Senate passed the bill, but Democratic Governor Roy Cooper made no effort on the legislation subsequently enacting the law by his inaction.

This law supports freedom of speech on campus by preventing administrators from disinviting speakers and enforcing disciplinary sanctions on those who interfere with students’ First Amendment rights. It allows students who have had their speech restricted to recover their costs in attorney fees if they bring a case to the university.

This law also encourages administrators that craft the university’s messaging to remain neutral on highly controversial issues. Each year, the schools will be required to file a yearly report to the public, the trustees, and the governor on the university’s handling of free speech issues on campus.

The Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based conservative public policy think tank, crafted a 25-page legislative proposal that North Carolina lawmakers used as a guideline. The Tarheel state is the first to use the Goldwater legislative proposal, using almost all of its recommendations except its penalty policy. Goldwater suggests if a student is found guilty twice for infringing free speech on campus, then the university must implement a mandatory suspension for at least one year. North Carolina legislators called for strict punishments but did not mandate the suspension.

North Carolina is now one of five states to pass legislation that penalizes those who infringe on others’ First Amendment rights on college campuses, joining Colorado, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia.

California, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin are all reviewing statewide laws addressing free speech on college campuses.

As the war on free speech continues to get nationwide attention, both the House and the Senate have held hearings discussing this issue. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has even threatened to strip federal funds to public universities who restrict students and speakers’ First Amendment rights.

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