Protecting Campus Free Speech: Proposed Legislation

ATLANTA, GA: As part of its ongoing Student Freedom & Safety Project, Southeastern Legal Foundation provided testimony before the Georgia Senate Higher Education Committee examining the constitutionality of Senate Bill 339, a bill that proposes to enhance free speech protections on campuses and to introduce a streamlined and transparent process for redress of perceived First Amendment violations.

As discussed in the testimony, SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann points out that "when we talk about constitutional rights – especially those protected by the First Amendment – there is no place for discretionary enforcement. SB 339 provides an objective response to ensure that all of those attending our State’s public colleges and universities may freely express themselves. Without an objective and consistent disciplinary process, the response to the silencing act is undoubtedly content-based, speaker-based, or viewpoint based – all of which are unconstitutional. The procedures provided for in SB 339 help ensure that the response is constitutional – both from a due process and equal protection standpoint."

Hermann pointed out in testimony that, based on two years of research into university speech codes across the United States, between one-third and one-half of schools either maintain an unconstitutional policy or have no policy at all, relegating complaints to a case-by-case analysis by the schools themselves. She refers to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' assessment in September 2017 that 40 percent of U.S. universities have speech policies that substantially infringe on constitutionally protected speech.

The bill is a version of the template legislation offered by Arizona-based Goldwater Institute. SLF anticipates similar testimony in various state legislatures over the coming year.

Click here for SLF testimony, S.B. 339

Click here for S.B. 339, as introduced

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