Reporters Question Need for Free Speech Protections in Milo Bill

free speech
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Reporters at “The MILO Bill” press conference questioned Tennessee 18th District Representative Martin Daniel and Tennesee Senator Joey Hensley about the issue of free speech and why The MILO Bill is necessary.

One reporter questioned the function of The MILO Bill, asking, “What would it actually do? Would it abolish the permit process for free speech on campus? What would it actually do?”

Representative Martin Daniel replied to the reporter, saying, “The bill is available in my office, it’s House Bill 739, so the primary focus is to create an official university policy of respecting freedom of speech.” Daniel was then interrupted by the reporter, who said, “I think most universities would say that they have a policy that respects freedom of speech.”

Daniel replied, “Of course they would, but the bill creates oversight of administrators to make sure that they fairly administer the First Amendment and also will provide for publication and information to students via their freshman orientation and then regularly via email to make them aware of the universities commitment to the freedom of speech and their rights to freedom of speech.”

Chris Conte, a reporter for News Channel 5, also questioned the two legislators, saying, “You both kind of kept harping on this notion that this bill is about students’ rights to free speech, but in reading the language of the bill it seems like this bill is merely not to protect students’ free speech but to protect speakers who are coming to college campuses. No?”

Senator Hensley replied, “It would do both, yes. Colleges already limit speakers coming to their campuses, but we think that everybody should have the right to free speech, especially students in the classrooms many times the professor limit free speech.”

When another reporter asked if professors have the right to free speech, the senator replied, “They do, but they don’t have the right to punish a student because they don’t agree with them, and many times that’s what happens. And that will still happen, I’m sure, but we want the boards and the administration of our public universities to be more protective of free speech, everybody’s free speech.”

Conte then asked, “Are you saying that students shouldn’t have the right to protest things on college campuses?” The senator replied, “No. Students have the right to protest, they don’t have the right to be so disruptive and destructive as they were but certainly, everybody has the right to protest.”

Conte pressed where the bill was “trying to go.”  The senator replied, “We want our public universities to know that this legislature wants our public universities to be open to all types of free speech. When we pass legislation here, it sends the word, whether there’s things in the bill that punishes them [the universities], just like we’re having hearings for our new board members for the six universities, and we tried to stress with those board members, these six new board members of four-year universities, that we want them to make sure these public universities are open to all types of free speech. We don’t want happening in Tennessee what happened in California.”

“Obviously anything attached to the nexus of Breitbart is going to capture a lot of attention just because of how controversial the newsworthiness of it is,” said Conte. “Are you just trying to garner some national attention with this bill?”

“No,” replied Hensley. “We are trying to guarantee free speech in our public universities. They’re paid for by tax dollars the majority of them, we’re funding a lot of money for our higher education institutions, $650 million dollars in capital projects this year, most of it for our higher education institutions. Many of our tax dollars go to it so we want to make sure everybody’s right to free speech on the public universities are guaranteed in the state of Tennessee.”