How to Enrich Campus Speech and Protect Academic Autonomy

Universities play an important role in our society. Higher education provides college students an opportunity to refine the skills necessary for tackling competing and challenging views as well as discovering how to collaborate with those they disagree with. In the wake of seven states enacting policy to clear the way for students and scholars fostering such an open, intellectual environment, Charles Koch Institute Senior Fellow Casey Mattox issued the following statement:

Campus speech issues have attracted much attention, because they matter—not just in higher ed but to the society that generations of college students will help shape. State policymakers have played an increasingly productive part in removing legal hurdles to free expression. For instance, removing ‘speech zones’ that narrowly limit where expression can occur, clears the way for students to pamphlet, protest, speak, and more robustly engage with each other.

Just this year, seven states have enacted laws securing students’ speech and association. These laws have often passed with strong bipartisan majorities and with the support of the public universities to which they apply. In some cases though, well-intentioned legislation may create unexpected problems, including the Texas bill’s allowance of punishment for “unduly interfer[ing]” with others’ expression without defining when a student’s own protest might “unduly interfere” with another’s expression.

As additional states consider their own measures, they can avoid these pitfalls by focusing on policies that respect and strengthen civil liberties, institutional autonomy, and the independence of individual faculty and students. That precision can be achieved by collaborating with stakeholders who champion these scholarly ideals.

Here are additional materials related to this issue:

06-30-2020 10:40am

Supreme Court strikes a blow against free speech in Soros case, Charles Koch Institute fellow says

"At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that every person should decide for themselves what they want to say, or whether they want to say anything at all."

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06-18-2020 12:12pm

Conversations about race, equality, and the American experience

Organizations such as Braver Angels offer a path forward—driving a movement that seeks to create a space for dialogue to help us better understand each other and learn from each other. In a time where we’re having important conversations about race, equality, and the American experience, hearing each other’s voices is incredibly important.

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06-17-2020 10:15am

Lessons from Tiananmen Square for American Protesters

While Beijing pushed for measures to prevent protests, vigils, and other speech around the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Americans across the country started raising their voices to speak out against long entrenched injustices. Charles Koch Institute Director of Free Expression Sarah Ruger spoke to this essential component of progress in a recent commentary in Real Clear World.

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