As students – often joined by faculty – continue to attack the First Amendment in their fight for social justice, Americans of all stripes are beginning to take notice of the troubling trend. For one Republican state representative in Washington, his concern translated to action in the form of targeted legislation he hopes will help preserve free speech on college campuses across his state.
“I think that much of America watched with horror as events unfolded at Yale and the University of Missouri this year,” Rep. Matt Manweller said of the recent disruptive demonstrations. “When you see a mob screaming at a dean’s wife for sending out emails about Halloween costumes, or when you see a journalism professor prohibiting a journalism student from writing an article about protests, you really wake up and start to question what is going on.”
The bill he drafted to combat this cultural shift would institute a fine of at least $500 for a university’s active suppression of students’ First Amendment rights. The initial fine would build – at a rate of $50 per day – until the violating policy is rescinded.
“College is supposed to make you uncomfortable,” he asserted, noting his proposed legislation takes aim at the designation of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘free speech zones’ on college campuses, as well as the label ‘micro-aggression’ or ‘trigger warning’ being placed on controversial language.
Describing the mechanics of his proposal, Manweller said that it would end the practice of limiting free speech to certain areas. If successful, the law would also give students an opportunity to defend themselves against accusations of offensive speech while banning disciplinary action based on such allegations.