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Free speech can be a contentious term that divides different generations and political parties. What does it include? When and to whom does it apply? Can it legally be restricted on public property? Does it allow for so-called “hate speech?”
Answers to these questions often differ depending on who is asked. Even higher education policy makers often disagree as to what is constitutional when it comes to speech, leading to vastly different policies from one campus to the next.
Policies - Codes - Drug - Enforcement - Privacy
But it’s not just speech policies. It’s dress codes. Drug enforcement. Privacy rights. Across these policy areas and more, there are objectively good and bad standards that can be applied in taxpayer-funded schools. Unfortunately, differing legal interpretations lead to unequal application of constitutional rights on college campuses. This is due to inherent human error and bias, along with the troublesome fact that not all colleges employ attorneys to review their policies before they are adopted and enforced.
The Dixie State situation wasn’t an isolated incident. Nationwide, students at various universities have had their rights infringed. Kevin Shaw was told he couldn’t pass out copies of the U.S. Constitution at Peirce College in California. A former student at University of Virginia is suing the school for their unlawful sexual misconduct mandate. One student was suspended for her husband’s controversial Facebook posts. Numerous other universities restricted students’ free expression to small zones on campus.
Attacks - Liberties - Discussion - Students - Rights
Fortunately, these attacks on civil liberties have sparked a nationwide discussion on students’ rights on campus. Many states went ahead and banned college free speech zones while individual colleges have changed policies at the pressure of student groups. While this is positive progress, these measures don’t always go far enough to protect each person’s rights.
In pursuit of broader reform, a few states enacted comprehensive legislation addressing this issue. Utah passed a bill which...
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