Republican lawmakers in Ohio have proposed a bill that would block public universities from disinviting controversial speakers.
Ohio State Representatives Wesley Goodman and Andrew Brenner, both Republicans, have introduced a Campus Free Speech Act that would prevent public universities in the state from canceling speaking events featuring controversial guests. The bill, if passed, would also eliminate free speech zones so that students are free to exercise their First Amendment rights campus-wide.
Writing to The College Fix in an email, Goldman argued that Americans are growing increasingly concerned about the freedom of students to express themselves on their campuses. Under his proposal, students would be permitted to file suit against their public university if they feel they have violated a provision of the Campus Free Speech Act.
“Americans are growing increasingly concerned about the level of openness of debate on Ohio’s college campuses,” Goodman wrote. “People can only be truly free if they are allowed to think and speak their deeply held beliefs freely.”
“Only through vigorous debate can we find truth and expose error,” Goodman added. “Only through freely debating ideas can we sharpen our minds and discover our best arguments for what we believe. Government and public universities cannot suppress, censor, or stifle that debate. Rather, students and the campus community must decide for themselves in an open way the values and principles they embrace and what they reject as error.”
Brenner echoed Goodman’s sentiments during a press conference on the bill. He referenced attempts to shut down conservative commentator Ann Coulter on the basis that some individuals might try to cause a disruption.
“To give you an example, Ann Coulter is going to a college campus to give a speech and they just say, ‘OK, forget it. We’re not allowing her because we think it’s going to cause some issues,’” Brenner said. “You can’t just say that.”