POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
In an article published by AlterNet, Alex Kotch reports on the material released by UnKoch My Campus showing how the intensifying calls to protect free speech on campus are being used as a cover for suppressing progressive dissent and protest on campus—covering some of the same points that I highlighted in a recent post on the topic: https://academeblog.org/2017/03/07/koch-networks-student-protest-ban-disguised-as-campus-free-speech/.
Kotch adds what amounts to a timeline on these efforts:
In 2014, Virginia passed the nation’s first law banning socalled “free speech zones,” which restrict protected speech to designated areas often far away from events that students want to protest. The following year, Missouri enacted a Campus Free Expression Act forbidding “free speech zones” without imposing punitive measures.
But while more recent legislation bans free speech zones as well, it also restricts student free speech in scenarios where, lawmakers claim, free speech is protected.
Legislators in some states including Illinois and Tennessee have introduced bills in 2017 that explicitly mention sanctions on student protesters. Illinois’ bill, proposed by two Republicans, lifts this language, and additional passages, nearly verbatim from the Goldwater model. Also sponsored by Republicans, the bill in Tennessee—nicknamed the “Milo Bill” after an event at the University of California at Berkeley featuring the racist “altright” icon Milo Yiannopolous was canceled due to protests—directs universities to enact free speech policies that include “sanctions for anyone under the jurisdiction of the institution who interferes with the free expression of others,” and it gives faculty “the right to regulate class speech.”
In North Carolina, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest intends to work with legislators on a Restore Campus Free Speech Act, which would create “a discipline policy that would punish students who shout down visiting speakers or deprive others of their right to free expression, a tactic commonly known as the ‘hecklers’ veto.'”
Last year, Forest floated a measure calling on the University of North Carolina’s board of governors to create a systemwide policy that would impose harsh penalties, including expulsion, on students, staff and faculty members who disrupt classes, public meetings or events. The Koch-funded Generation Opportunity lauded the effort at the time. Forest has said that yelling at a guest speaker “has never been free speech,” and he’s called campus protest methods “terrorist tactics.” No one introduced a free speech bill that year.
Other proposed laws, like North Dakota’s, which was introduced by six Republicans, omit sanctions provisions but state that a university may restrict student speech if it blocks entrances to buildings, obstructs traffic or interferes with events. Much of the North Dakota bill comes directly from the text of the Goldwater model legislation. A large group of most Republican legislators in Virginia has a new bill in play that includes much of the Goldwater language but stays away from restrictions on students.
Additional campus free speech bills have been introduced this year in Colorado (sponsored by two Republicans and one Democrat) and Utah (sponsored by 14 Republican state representatives). Florida could be next. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has a “free speech” provision in his proposed budget.
The complete text of Alex Kotch’s article is available at: http://www.alternet.org/education/right-wing-billionaires-are-funding-cynical-plot-destroy-dissent-and-protest-colleges?
Alex Kotch is an independent investigative journalist based in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow him on Twitter at @alexkotch.