By Kyle Perisic
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill banning so-called “free-speech zones” at public universities and allowing students and speakers to sue the schools for violating their First Amendment rights.
Free-speech zones are limited areas, sometimes only fractions of a campus, where students may express themselves freely. Critics argue that an entire campus should allow free speech, not small and restrictive areas.
The legislation, called the Excellence in Higher Education Act, reads: “A public institution of higher education may not designate any area of campus as a free-speech zone or otherwise create policies restricting expressive activities to a particular outdoor area of campus.”
Students, faculty, and staff of a public institution of higher education may not “materially disrupt previously scheduled or reserved activities on campus occurring at the same time,” the new law says.
Scott, a Republican, signed the bill Sunday.
“No one has a right to shut down speech simply because it makes someone feel uncomfortable,” state Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican who made passage of the bill a top priority, said in a press release.
“Florida’s universities will continue to achieve national distinction because they are training our students to articulate and defend their ideas in an open, responsible way that prepares them for the real world.”
Supporters of the legislation pointed to the riots in February 2017 at the University of California, Berkeley, when demonstrators prevented libertarian commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, a Florida resident, from speaking on campus. Berkeley spent nearly $800,000 on security.
The University of Florida spent nearly $600,000 on security for an October appearance by Richard Spencer, a white nationalist.
The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting free speech on public universities, supports the law.
From:: Daily Signal – Feed