Student speech bill deserves support

Students of colleges and universities in the United States should be allowed to speak freely without being censored or monitored by the institutions they attend.

One of the many great aspects of this country is freedom of speech. It allows citizens of this country to speak their opinions and, in turn, those opinions should be respected by others, no matter whether they agree with them.

Across this country, at certain colleges and universities there seems to be an attempt by administrators to quash free speech by students. The issue has come up at Harvard and Yale, where administrators have tried to limit students’ free speech over the past several years.

This should not be the case.

Recently, here at Western Kentucky University, senior John Winstead of Nashville, who is a WKU student senator, faced a censure hearing after expressing his dislike of WKU President Gary Randsell. Winstead was not censured at the hearing.

We said at the time and still believe that although some may disagree with Winstead’s views about Ransdell, his freedom of speech protected him from censure.

That is why we are supporting legislation filed for the upcoming legislative session by state Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville.

Meeks has pre-filed Bill Request 271, which would limit public postsecondary institutions’ ability to restrict student speech. The legislation would create a new section of Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 164 to read that “public postsecondary education institutions shall not impose restrictions on the time, place and manner of student free speech.”

The bill further elaborates that the protection extends to student speech that occurs on campus and is protected by the First Amendment. Restrictions are only warranted if they are reasonable, justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.

Meeks’ legislation has merit.

It would protect students on our state’s college campuses who simply want to express their opinions without fear of retribution or retaliation from the faculty or the administration of these colleges and universities.

Quite obviously, if a student makes physical threats toward other students or faculty members at a college or university, then that student’s freedom of speech protection would be null and void.

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where students can express their opinions and offer ideas without any backlash or intimidation from the institution they are attending.

Attacks on freedom of speech have no place in our society, and they certainly don’t have any place on our college campuses.

That is why we urge legislators to get behind this common-sense legislation in the upcoming session and pass it into law.

Daily News of Bowling Green

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