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Arizona Lawmakers Vote to Kill Free Speech on College Campuses, Will Gov. Ducey Sign Off?


Conservatives are up in arms over legislation which will limit free speech on college campuses in Arizona.

Arizona House bill 2563, which applies to public universities and community colleges, has passed the state Senate, so it's now up to the governor whether it becomes law.

The bill, which started out with clear protections for student's First Amendment rights, was amended to do exactly the opposite. 

In an article by Erick Erickson, editor of the Resurgent, he states that two keywords in HB 2563 have been altered – changing it from protecting free speech to giving college administrators dictatorial powers over student speech.

It originally read: "A university or community college shall not restrict a student's right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum."

And this is how it was changed: "A university or community college may restrict a student's right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum."

Erickson is joined by a growing group of voices calling on Governor Doug Ducey to veto the bill, like the group called FIRE, which stands for Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. 

Greg Piper of the College Fix thinks this latest move toward censorship is intolerable and he hopes the governor will wake up before signing this controversial legislation into law.

But Piper is not too confident that Ducey will veto the bill, pointing to his wavering support of student speech.

In 2017, Gov. Ducey went against conservatives to veto the New Voices bill which, in Piper's words, "would protect student journalists and their advisers from censorship and retaliation."

If the governor signs this bill then the Grand Canyon state "is on the verge of making a fool of itself by passing a law that directly contradicts its ban on free speech zones" says Piper.

But not everyone sees the bill as a threat to free speech.

Jonathan Butcher, Senior Policy Analyst for Heritage says there are other provisions in the bill to keep free speech on college campuses. 

In fact according to Butcher there are more pressing concerns with the laws already in power on campus grounds but this "proposal actually prevents campus administrators from abusing their regulatory powers to stifle free speech." 

In his analysis of the legislation, "This proposal changes the law to say that universities may restrict speech but only under certain conditions." adding that "a school may only restrict speech if it is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest and it must be the least restrictive means of doing so." 

He also points to new provisions for free speech in this version of the bill, "The proposal also allows for “spontaneous assembly and distribution of literature” 

When asked if there was common ground for those concerned with free speech and those imposing restrictions, Butcher says we need a balance between private spaces for learning and public spaces such as walk ways. 

"Schools need to maintain order in private spaces such as classrooms and inside buildings, so reasonable limits on noise and protests that prevent individuals from being heard are needed in those spaces. For public spaces (sidewalks and lawns, for example), it’s important that proposals like these to protect free speech on campus are designed so that students can protest and demonstrate as long as they do not prevent others from doing the same. Marching on a sidewalk with a sign is an important freedom, but shouting through a bullhorn at the university president as he tries to give a speech before an audience is not." says Butcher.

READ: Harvard Punishes Christian Student Group – and You Guessed It – for Following the Bible

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